Defense cuts could put DAFB hangar on chopping block

DOVER — A new aircraft maintenance hangar for Dover Air Force Base may be sitting in the crosshairs of a 20-page list of military construction projects sent from the Pentagon to Congress on Monday.

The money saved would help pay for the balance of the wall wanted by President Trump to help secure the United States-Mexico border.

The Pentagon’s list estimated the cost of the Dover Air Base hangar construction to be around $39 million.

It could be part of many U.S. military construction projects from around the world put on hold to help tally up $12.8 billion for wall construction.

From the list, only funds from projects that had a projected award date after Oct. 1, 2019, are eligible to be used and it cannot include military barracks, housing or dormitory projects.

Not all the projects on the Pentagon’s list will be subject to cuts, according to the Department of Defense, making it difficult to determine exactly which projects would be vulnerable.

“No decisions have been made regarding specific projects funded by Title 10 U.S.C., Section 2808 (MILCON) funding,” said Heather Babb, spokeswoman for the DoD.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, said that he hopes releasing the list shows the public the impact the Department of Defense’s proposed project cuts could have on local projects and will sway the public’s support away from the construction of a southern border barrier.

“President Trump promised that Mexico would pay for his wall, but now that he can’t get his way, he’s proposing to take money from important military construction projects to pay for it – and one of the projects possibly on the chopping block is a hangar at Dover Air Force Base,” Sen. Coons wrote on social media Tuesday.

“But it’s not just Dover Air Force Base that could be impacted. The president is considering pulling funds from military construction projects in 42 states, DC, U.S. territories, and our bases overseas – projects including training centers, elementary schools, fire stations and air traffic control towers.”

The proposed maintenance hangar at Dover Air Force Base on the list of cuts was listed at $39 million, though it remains unclear if it is the fully enclosed hangar that base officials have touted the past couple of years.

At the annual State of the Base Briefing breakfast at The Landings at DAFB last November, Col. Joel W. Safranek, commander of the 436th Airlift Wing, spoke of the need for the construction of a hangar that would be large enough to perform maintenance work on a C-5 or C-17 in a weatherproof, fully enclosed area.

The colonel said getting the hangar built is a priority.

“One of the reasons we have this as a priority is you can’t work on some of these larger airplanes when there is lightning, or when the wind is blowing at a certain level and, quite frankly, based on the amount of hangar space that we have, we lose about one month of (aircraft) maintenance time a year due to bad weather,” Col. Safranek said.

According to the Military Times, President Trump said he has support from many in the military for his decision to move funds from the military to border wall construction.’

“Some generals think this is more important,” he said of building the wall, rather than funding military construction projects. Without being specific, President Trump said that some of the projects that would be canceled “didn’t sound too important to me.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, also took to social media on Tuesday to criticize the president’s decision to use military funding to help build a border wall.

“In Delaware, Dover Air Force Base could potentially lose funding for a hangar where we repair and maintain a critical cargo aircraft, known as the C-5M, simply to fulfill (President Trump’s) campaign promise,” Sen. Carper wrote. “That is shortsighted and wrong.

“Dover Air Force Base is home to some of the nation’s most impressive aircraft fleet. Over the past nine years, C-5M flight crews operating out of Dover and (Travis, California Air Force Base) have set a total of 89 world records – making the C-5M the world’s top aviation record holder.

“I’ve worked hard – along with our congressional delegation – to secure hundreds of millions in federal funds for important projects at Dover Air Force Base, including the new C-5M maintenance hangar. Today, DAFB is regarded by many as the finest airlift base in the world.”

The Pentagon document listed hundreds of projects envisioned by military operations around the U.S. and world worth around $12.9 billion.

President Trump declared a national emergency at the Mexican border on Feb. 15 after Congress limited him to just under $1.4 billion to build border barriers.

He then invoked a law that would let him use other budget funds – $3.6 billion from military construction – to build the structures.

Last Friday, President Trump later vetoed an effort by the Congress to nullify the emergency declaration, which led Pentagon officials to make the list public on Monday.

The aircraft hangar was the only item at Dover Air Force Base on the list of possible DoD cuts.

Sen. Coons went on to write on social media that the possible cuts in defense projects should concern the public.

“Needless to say, this is no way to run the federal government, support our military, or secure the border,” he wrote.

“The president should follow the Constitution and work with Congress to make smart investments in border security, keep the government open and functioning, and give the military the resources it needs.

“In the meantime, it’s not too late to stop this. I hope my colleagues from both parties will join me in overriding the president’s veto and ending his national emergency declaration.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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