A February 22nd letter to Congress, including a list of the “Marine Corps’ Unfunded Priorities for FY19,” was recently made public. The Marine Corps was the last military service to have its annual “gimme” list made public. We’ve already written about the lists from the Navy, Air Force and Army.
As we’ve articulated before about these lists, it’s a weak argument to claim that in an overall Pentagon budget of close to $700 billion there are any projects that could possibly be called “priorities” that didn’t make it into the budget request. And each military service chief points out in their cover letter that they are delivering these lists pursuant to direction in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). While that’s true, they could also send a letter saying their true requirements are already reflected in the President’s Budget Request. But they don’t.
The Marine Corps Commandant, General Neller, does take an original approach to his list. Each item on the $235.9 million is related to military construction. For those people knowledgeable of the general appearance of military bases, it is hilarious (although we doubt the general was trying to be funny) when the letter explains these additional military construction projects would, “help to address the degradation from past near-term readiness tradeoffs that led to chronic underfunding of our infrastructure.” It is well established that the Marines pay much less attention to the living and working conditions of their service members than the Navy, the Army and, certainly, the Air Force. This is not degradation brought about by any “near-term” decisions but more like decades of specific decision making.
Of the eight line items, two are “unspecified” – $25 million for minor construction and $20 million for planning and design. The other $190.9 million is for six specific military construction projects. And, as is the norm with construction requests, the specific military base is identified. This is a little piece of genius on the part of the Commandant.
Why? Because six of those projects are easily identifiable by the members of the House and Senate who represent that base. So, two of the projects are at Camp Pendleton in California for a cool $88.3 million. Over to you California Congressional delegation! Likewise, there is just under $32 million in Georgia, a little more than $51 million in North Carolina, a relatively small $6.3 million in South Carolina and just over $13 million in Virginia.
And if you think the corresponding Members of Congress aren’t making note of those requests, we have a lovely military construction project (not a bridge) in Brooklyn to sell you.