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Long-term funding sustains 2010 vision

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer
photo by Nick Stubbs
Contractors plant palm trees along Bayshore Boulevard as part of the Mission Planning Center improvements.

The 2004 budget shortfall predicted last summer by Air Mobility Command is now a reality, but foresight, planning and funding battles won over the past two years will mean growth at MacDill will not slow.

While temporary budget constraints have meant discretionary programs like recreational and extracurricular activities became victims of the budget knife, MacDill's big ticket-items including new base housing, force protection improvements, office buildings and environmental improvements are safe and will not be derailed.

In fact, the pace of construction and work on the base is ramping up and within the next year, "the earth is going to move" at MacDill, said Michael Cooley, chief of construction programs, 6th Civil Engineer Squadron.

"It may look like there is a lot of work going on now," said Mr. Cooley, noting crews are busy doing everything from housing construction to installation of a new high-tech radar and surveillance system to the Mission Planning Center Park work and planting palm trees along Bayshore, but it's nothing compared to what's to come.

Mr. Cooley said the base is fortunate in that over the past two years MacDill has secured funding for construction and improvements - money specifically allocated for base growth projects. That's good news for Mr. Cooley and others overseeing the revamping of the base. The money allocated for civil engineering projects by law must be used for those projects and can't be tampered with, which means the money is safe and base improvements can march on, unaffected by the types of annual budget uncertainties currently impacting some base services.

"It might seem odd that in the midst of austerity measures like cutting out towels at the gym we are able to keep working the way we are, but we are very fortunate to have secured funding for these projects long ago," said Mr. Cooley, adding that MacDill has done very well for itself. According to Cooley, over the last two years MacDill has received considerable funding for construction and improvements.

He did note there are some projects yet unfunded, including construction of a new security forces building to replace the overcrowded and aging facility now used, but he is hopeful the $10 million project will receive Congressional approval in the next year or two. Meanwhile, security forces is getting a lift, as funding was secured for several important projects, including improvements at all base gates, a new floating dock for a patrol boat at the Mission Planning Center Park and the radar-video camera systems being installed now at the marina and on Bayshore near the hospital.




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