Government & Politics

Trump’s border wall could mean funding delays for Missouri Air National Guard project

An upgrade to the Missouri Air National Guard’s facilities in St. Joseph is among the military construction projects that could see millions of federal dollars delayed for President Donald Trump’s border wall.

The Department of Defense submitted to Congress Monday a list of projects at risk of losing funding because of the president’s national emergency declaration. The list includes $10 million that was slated to go toward a project at Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph.

The Missouri Air National Guard controls a wing of the airport, which is operated jointly with the city of St. Joseph. The money was intended for a new guard communications facility. The Missouri Air National Guard said it could not comment on a pending budget decision.

A project’s inclusion on the list doesn’t necessarily mean that funds will be diverted. The document from the Department of Defense states that if its full budget request for the 2020 fiscal year is met, none of the listed projects will be delayed.

Rep. Sam Graves’ staff did not respond to questions about the potential impact to the airport, which is located in the Missouri Republican’s district. The state’s two GOP senators, Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, did not immediately comment.

The Defense Department’s list also includes $291 million for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new facility in St. Louis, a top priority for the Missouri delegation. The project had previously been identified as vulnerable on a list assembled by Democratic staffers last month.

However, the multi-year project may be safer after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday that it had awarded a contract to design and build the facility to McCarthy HITT, a St. Louis-based firm. The contract, which lasts through 2023, is worth more than $711 million.

Jonathan Stack, a spokesman for the NGA, confirmed in an email Wednesday that the agency does not expect the St. Louis project’s funding to be affected by the emergency declaration. Stack pointed to the Defense Department’s fact sheet, which states “no military construction projects already awarded and no military construction with fiscal year 2019 awarded dates will be impacted.”

Blunt, the No. 4 Republican in the Senate, sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and opposed Trump’s declaration. He has previously said that he would be watching closely to see whether the NGA project would be affected by the president’s declaration.

The NGA, an agency within the Department of Defense, analyzes satellite and drone imagery. It played a crucial role in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

“With today’s announcement, we are another step closer to breaking ground on the new NGA West headquarters,” Blunt said in a news release. “NGA intelligence professionals work hard to ensure policymakers and the defense community have the information they need to keep our country safe. Making sure we have the resources in place to get this facility built as quickly as possible has been, and will continue to be, a top priority.”

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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