Policy Bill Requires DOD to Find New Funding Sources for Road Improvements
Language urging DOD to expand funding for public transportation improvements needed to accommodate military growth is included in the conference agreement for the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill.
The provision calls for the Economic Adjustment Committee — a panel of 22 federal agencies responsible for providing technical and financial assistance to communities and states coping with defense-triggered economic impacts — to meet within 90 days after the legislation is enacted to consider additional funding sources for the Defense Access Roads (DAR) program. The committee would be required within a year to craft a plan to expand funding sources to mitigate significant transportation impacts at military installations.
The DAR program provides a mechanism for DOD to fund public road improvements required as the result of sudden defense-generated impacts. Another part of the provision would make it easier for projects to qualify for funding under the program. Existing funding criteria require traffic to double as a result of mission growth before transportation improvements are eligible for funding.
The authorization bill would allow the secretary of defense to “determine the magnitude of the required improvements without regard to the extent to which traffic generated by the reservation is greater than other traffic in the vicinity of the reservation.”
The provision also requires DOD to specify its request for the DAR program when it submits its annual budget proposal to Congress. The program does not have its own appropriations account; projects are funded from the military construction account of the service benefiting from the improvement.
While the provision is intended to aid communities dealing with an influx of military personnel and their families, the House and Senate conferees stressed that the language is not meant to imply that mitigation of traffic impacts is a DOD responsibility.
“The conferees note that many communities have been exceptional partners in ameliorating the impact of base realignments and believe that this practice should be encouraged,” they wrote.
The conference report for H.R. 1540 is available on the website of the House Rules Committee.