A new authority allowing DOD to provide funding to state and local governments for off-base infrastructure projects has been included in the final version of the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill. House and Senate negotiators had to make several tweaks, though, as they reconciled competing versions of the new authority for the department to award grants to address deficiencies in community infrastructure if the assistance will enhance the military value, resilience or military family quality of life at an installation.
The final language sunsets the Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Program after 10 years, a compromise between the five-year limit the Senate would have placed on it and the House’s intention to create a permanent program. The final provision adopts the Senate requirement for state and local participants to contribute at least 30 percent of the total project cost; the House had proposed a 20 percent cost share for participants. The cost-share requirement can be waived, however, for rural communities or “for reasons related to national security,” under the compromise language.
A transportation project, a school, hospital, police, fire, emergency response or other community support facility, or a waste, wastewater, telecommunications, electric, gas or other utility infrastructure project would be eligible for the program, according to section 2861.
In the joint explanatory statement accompanying the conference report, lawmakers underscored the value of the new authority: “The conferees note the importance of the communities that surround and support U.S. military installations and believe that this program can be of tremendous benefit to both the surrounding community and respective installations.”
Lawmakers reached agreement on the conference report Monday. The House is expected to vote on the legislation this week, and the Senate possibly in August.
Photo by Aaron Rosenblatt