After millions of dollars, desperately needed for repairs to Tyndall Air Force Base, finally came through in June after months of delays, airmen began completing hurricane restoration projects at a rapid clip, according to Air Force officials.
Hurricane Michael damaged nearly 700 buildings when it struck the Florida base in October 2018, leaving behind devastation and an estimated $4.7 billion repair bill. But the June 2019 Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act increased Tyndall’s annual Operations and Maintenance budget by 450 percent in the final portion of fiscal 2019.
That provided $56 million for regular base operations — coupled with $358.4 million for Hurricane Michael recovery under facility sustainment restoration modernization. The sum equaled more than 10 times Tyndall’s usual sustainment and modernization budget of $30 million, Air Force officials said in December.
“For any normal base to recover from a natural disaster and get to the point where it’s obligating 10 times more in funding is a herculean achievement,” said Col. Travis Leighton, director of the Tyndall Program Management Office, in an Air Force news release.
“Most people doing this work were dealing with their own lives and families at home and then coming in to develop requirements, manage and award contracts, and contribute to getting the base back to normal,” Leighton said.
The boost in spending came amid warnings from top Air Force officials this spring that facility and readiness projects at Tyndall would have to be cut if supplemental funding wasn’t approved immediately. At the time, the service had already deferred funding for 61 projects in 18 different states because of a lack of funding to rebuild Tyndall and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, which flooded in March 2019.
After Congress approved the supplemental funding, airmen were forced to implement projects before the end of fiscal 2019 on Oct. 1. The limited time frame forced airmen to work long hours to pull off the execution, Leighton and other Air Force officials said.
“We received a significant portion of our funding in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, meaning we had a very short amount of time to execute a huge amount of money,” said Capt. Meara McCarthy, 325th Comptroller Squadron budget officer, according to the news release. “Ultimately, we had one quarter to execute about four and a half times the amount of money that we do in an entire year.”
Altogether, more than 40 projects in the final 90 days of the fiscal year were executed, the Air Force said. This included restoring the commissary and dorms, along with other buildings on base.
Additionally, the Air Force awarded two military construction contracts in September: $11.8 million to build a fire station and $17.6 million for an Air Battle Manager F-15 simulator building.
“Newly repaired buildings will be resilient to future storms and technologically comparable to future [military construction] projects,” said Capt. Sean Murphy, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy engineering flight chief.
Col. Brian Laidlaw, the 325th Fighter Wing commander, applauded those involved for their swift actions.
“I hope the comptrollers, contracting officers and Air Force engineers in the future look back on what these airmen accomplished and see it as an example of what right looks like in our service,” Laidlaw said.
“Tyndall’s future is bright because of these officers and all the airmen they lead,” Laidlaw said. “It is at their pace that we sprint toward delivery of our first F-35 fighter aircraft in September of 2023.”
Last December, the Air Force said it was aiming to rebuild the installation to accommodate three F-35 squadrons on the installation. The Trump administration announced in August 2019 that the fighter jets would arrive at Tyndall by 2023.
The F-22 Raptors that had been assigned to Tyndall have been reassigned to other bases.
Hurricane Michael hit Florida’s Panhandle as a Category 5 hurricane, requiring the Air Force to relocate 11,000 personnel and 46 aircraft.