The Texas Military Preparedness Commission last week awarded $14.1 million to four Texas communities for projects intended to bolster the standing of local installations in a future round of base closure, covering needs such as security enhancements and a new air traffic control tower.
The awards stand out as state lawmakers had not allocated any funding over the past six years for its Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant program. Last week’s awards will be followed on March 31 by a new batch of grants totaling almost $16 million, the amount leftover from the Legislature’s $30 million appropriation for the fiscal 2016-2017 biennium.
“[This initiative] sends a strong signal to our local military and to the Department of Defense that says Texas is serious about its military installations and increasing the military value of its installations, and this is one action that delineates that,” said Bob Murdock, director of San Antonio’s Office of Military Affairs.
San Antonio received the largest award, $5 million for a project that will connect the area’s military installations to an alternative water source.
Val Verde County and the city of Del Rio will receive $4.3 million to construct a security control center at Laughlin Air Force Base’s main entrance that will correct numerous security and logistical challenges.
“This grant is crucial in order for Laughlin to uphold the highest level of security and protection for the over 4,000 military personnel on the base,” Rep. Will Hurd (R) said in a press release. “This award not only strengthens Laughlin and the community, it ensures that future generations of student pilots and base personnel are provided the security they need to continue training those who serve in the best Air Force anywhere on the globe,” Hurd said.
Wichita Falls’ $1.75 million award also will go toward improving security at an installation’s main gate; in this case, by improving the appearance of the streetscape outside the main entrance to Sheppard AFB. Under a project with a total cost of $3.5 million, the city will acquire and demolish abandoned properties near the gate, and also build transit and welcome centers.
City manager Darron Leiker credited Wichita Falls’ award to its pledge to provide at least a 50 percent local match to the state grant.
The city of Houston was awarded $3.1 million to construct a new air traffic control tower at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, a project intended to bolster the installation’s ability to operate missions that protect the region from aerial attack.
“With all the refineries and chemical plants around the Port of Houston, we’ve got major national security assets in the Houston area that really need to be protected,” John Martinec, chairman of the Ellington Field Task Force, told the Texas Tribune in August.5 comments