Trump’s border wall plan won’t affect Offutt runway project, Bacon says

Trump’s border wall plan won’t affect Offutt runway project, Bacon says
Airfield manager Gary Kaufman uses a vacuum to remove debris from a hole on the Offutt runway. BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

The money earmarked to rebuild Offutt Air Force Base’s crumbling runway won’t be sacrificed to build President Donald Trump’s planned border wall, Rep. Don Bacon said Monday.

Under a controversial emergency declaration Friday, Trump invoked a law that could allow him to redirect unspent funds appropriated for several other purposes.

That includes about $21 billion in the Pentagon’s military construction budget, $11.3 billion of which is for projects to be built this year.

But Bacon, a retired Air Force officer who once commanded Offutt’s 55th Wing, said the $130 million runway project is being funded out of the Air Force’s operations and maintenance budget, not the military construction fund.

“As of now, the Offutt runway funding appears secure,” Bacon, a Republican, said in a statement. “However, potential impacts to other (Department of Defense) construction projects are still a concern.”

The Pentagon’s construction budget includes money to build hangars, barracks, piers, office buildings and schools at bases all over the world. The only Nebraska project is a $9.5 million parking lot next to the U.S. Strategic Command’s new headquarters building at Offutt.

It’s not yet clear whether that project could be affected by Trump’s wall plan.

On Monday, officials in California, Colorado and 14 other states filed a lawsuit to stop the emergency declaration and preserve funding for military projects in their states.

Offutt’s single runway was built in 1941 and expanded to its current length of 11,700 feet in 1955 for the Strategic Air Command.

It has been patched and repaired many times, but it has never been completely replaced.

Its poor condition prompted local and state officials and Nebraska’s congressional delegation to mobilize in support of rebuilding the runway three years ago. In 2016, plans were announced to rebuild about 25 percent of the runway.

Last month, the delegation announced an expanded plan to completely rebuild the runway at a cost of $130 million. Construction is scheduled to start later this year.

The 55th Wing will move flight operations for its fleet of 29 reconnaissance aircraft to the Lincoln Airport for a year while construction is underway. Four E-4B Nighthawk jets falling under the Louisiana-based Global Strike Command will also operate there.

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