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Pentagon budget steers $5.5 billion to Evergreen State for military construction, new jets

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on April 10, 2013 at 3:20 pm with No Comments »
April 10, 2013 3:51 pm
The Pentagon's 2014 budget request includes $3.7 billion for the production of Navy P-8A jets. Boeing finishes the jets in Renton and at Boeing Field before delivering them to the military. (Lui Kit Wong/Staff Photographer)
The Pentagon’s 2014 budget request includes $3.7 billion for the production of Navy P-8A jets. Boeing finishes the jets in Renton and at Boeing Field before delivering them to the military. (Lui Kit Wong/Staff Photographer)

Spending on military construction in Washington State would slow under the Defense Department’s 2014 budget request, but continue to steer hundreds of millions of dollars toward projects around the Puget Sound.

The proposed budget sets aside $324 million for new work at military bases in the region, down from $581 million last year.

The request includes $144 million for air field improvements that would benefit a new Army helicopter brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and another $85 million to help the Navy prepare to move 28 Boeing-made submarine-hunting jets to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The budget also continues funding for two Puget Sound-made Boeing projects, the Air Force refueling tanker known as the KC-46A and the Whidbey Island-bound Navy P-8 Poseidon.

The tanker, to be manufactured in Everett, would receive about $1.6 billion next year, down from $1.8 billion this year.

Boeing is expected to make four prototypes of the jet, according to the budget request. In 2010, it won a $35 billion contract to develop and manufacture the tanker.

The Poseidon is in line for a big year with $3.7 billion in projected spending, up from $3.2 billion this year. It’s a variation of Boeing’s 737 modified with gear to identify and disrupt enemy submarines.

Over time, the Navy plans to buy 117 of them. It’s built in Kansas and in Renton.

Navy spokesman Mike Welding said the Navy intends to station 28 Poseidons at Whidbey, replacing the same number of decades-old P3 long-range jets. The Poseidons are scheduled to start arriving at Whidbey Island in 2016, he said.

“It’ll be a one-for-one replacement” of the P3s, he said.

The Army spent some $1.7 billion improving Lewis-McChord in the decade after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., a period in which the number of active-duty soldiers stationed there swelled from about 19,000 to more than 34,000.

In 2012, the Defense Department approved $331 million worth of construction at the base south of Tacoma. Another $289 million followed last year, including $91 million to improve the base’s sewage treatment facility.

Those projects are still moving forward despite recent Defense Department budget cuts.

The investments in hardware and in military bases are continuing as the military seeks to reign in its spending.

The defense budget request seeks a round of base closures in 2015 to reduce long-term costs. Lawmakers last year rejected a similar request to launch a Base Closure and Realignment Commission to consider where the military can reduce its footprint.

The overall defense request calls for $526.6 billion in spending in 2014, slightly less than the 2013 Pentagon budget. It restores the $41 billion the Pentagon lost this year to the forced federal cuts known as sequestration.

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