June 18, 2004

The Honorable Chet Edwards, M. C.
Ranking Member
Military Construction Subcommittee
B-300 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, D. C. 20515
FAX: 202-225-3099

Dear Ranking Member Edwards:

The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) is extremely disappointed with the Navy’s request for family housing and appreciates you referencing the service’s failure to ask for funding for housing at least equal to the previous two years as "inexcusable." It is particularly unwarranted when Navy and Marine Corps families residing in high cost areas cannot afford to live on the economy. The idea that the Navy believes that increased housing allowances cover housing costs in those areas is purely a delusion. The allowance, paid on the basis of the average cost of off-base housing in the local area, is inadequate in such locations as San Diego.

FRA hails the Navy and Marine Corps for using public/private ventures in response to the need for new and renovated family housing. However, all of us are aware there is a statutory "cap" of $850 million on funds that may be expended for PPV projects. That sum is predicted to be consumed during this fiscal year. Whether or not the "cap" will be raised for FY 2005 is a question that cannot be answered at this writing. The possibility that the Navy’s intent to award contracts for FY 2004-2005 to improve and provide more than 26,000 units appears to be unlikely. Given these circumstances the Navy might have requested authorization and funding through the normal process for some of the more essential housing needs, i.e. - 2,668 units at San Diego and/or 897 at Camp Pendleton, Calif. and Yuma, Ariz. Or, it may have heeded the complaints of its Navy families residing in the Groton, Conn., submarine base and asked for emergency funds to construct housing units to move the families out of "substandard" quarters that have serious problems with mold, asbestos, and vermin. Or, the Navy could explore the recent offer to renovate housing at El Toro, Calif., at no cost to taxpayers. If our sailors and Marines are forced to live in Mexico or as far as 50 or more miles away to avoid the high costs of housing in the San Diego area, driving to and from El Toro in order to live in improved housing is certainly a more attractive alternative.

Paraphrasing the Navy’s newest policy to "spend no more than necessary on people," it’s of no wonder it failed to seek FY 2005 military construction funding for military housing. It has made cuts and cancellations in any number of services for its sailors or increased costs for some recreational programs. Most glaring is the Navy’s prudent request for reduced funds for its MWR programs. A House colleague, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (Calif.), brought this fact to light at a March 3, 2004 hearing before the Total Force Subcommittee. Ms. Sanchez was interested in learning from the Department of Defense why the Navy and Army had cut $89 million in appropriated funding for MWR.

A review of the House and Senate versions of the Military Construction sections in the FY 2005 National Defense Authorization Act lists family housing projects for the Army, Navy and Air Force. Both versions would authorize $27 million for one project for the Navy – 198 units at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C. When compared to the Army’s authorization of $395 million and the Air Force’s at $418 million, it proves the Navy is not only practicing its newest people plan but saying to its sailors, "people are not as important as other priorities."

FRA cannot but subscribe to the recent comment offered by Senator Christopher Dodd (CT);

"I understand that our first obligation is protecting and equipping our troops deployed in harm’s way, but ensuring safe, sanitary, and affordable housing for our military families is critical to making certain our sailors can focus on their military missions, without worrying about their families here at home."

The Association is in hope that the final FY 2005 National Defense Authorization and Appropriation Act should authorize and appropriate additional housing construction and renovation for our nation’s sailors and Marines.

With appreciation for your consideration, I am,

National Executive Secretary


Letters also sent to:

-          Congressmen Joel Hefley, Chairman, ReadinessSubcommittee

-          Solomon p. Orbitz, Ranking Member, Readiness Subcommittee

-          Joseph Knollenberg, Chairman, Military Construction Subcommittee