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Defense Spending Boom Missing Puerto Rico


February 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget for fiscal year (FY) 2002-2003 contains the largest increase in defense spending in 20 years, but the boom is apparently leaving Puerto Rico by the wayside.

Due largely to the war on terrorism, DOD’s FY 2002-2003 budget is $48 billion more than what was originally programmed. However, military spending in Puerto Rico is on the decline.

In what appears to be a clear indication that the Navy is preparing to downsize U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, construction of a $13 million headquarters for a Special Operations Command there has been eliminated from DOD’s construction list, as have plans for the construction of a new school. Still another family housing renovation project at Roosevelt Roads has been put up for bid, but has not been awarded.

A review of the DOD budget and military construction program shows that there are a total of 796 military construction and 226 family housing projects of $500,000 or more slated for stateside and overseas military installations, but none in Puerto Rico.

Last week, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a congressional budget panel that he is emphasizing military family housing construction throughout the Armed Forces, while scaling back new construction for offices and facilities. However, despite the military housing shortage in Puerto Rico (particularly for U.S. Army South at Fort Buchanan), military construction on the island is essentially at a standstill.

Puerto Rico and Army South’s situation is complicated by the ongoing congressional moratorium of $100 million in new construction at Fort Buchanan, pending final resolution of the Vieques controversy. Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo-Vila told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that he expects the moratorium to be lifted within the next six months.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico National Guard Gen. Francisco Marquez has said that with the closure of the U.S. Navy base at Sabana Seca, he would like to see housing units at the Sabana Seca base turned over to Army South personnel. Marquez said that the National Guard is slated to use Sabana Seca as an armory (moving its current armory adjacent to the U.S. Post Office and Plaza Las Americas), but cannot use the base’s housing facilities.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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