Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s building boom would surge further in 2012 if Congress adopts the budget request President Obama released Monday.
Obama would set aside more than $300 million for construction at the base south of Tacoma, up from the $171.8 million earmarked for this year in a budget proposal Congress has yet to approve.
The 2012 plan would increase total military construction in the state to $519 million, about $220 million more than what the Pentagon plans to spend this year.
That spike would net Washington the seventh-most money for military construction in the country. It’s 14th among the states in 2011.
South Sound residents might not notice the work unless they venture on to the base. The projects include $56 million for improvements to a brigade complex, $28 million for a training center and $21 million for a Special Forces facility.
The budget uses broad terms such as “infrastructure,” so it’s not clear exactly what’s in line for funding. Commanders and planners at Lewis-McChord were not available for comment Monday evening.
The numbers show the Defense Department is serious about catching up with growth at Lewis-McChord, said Gary Brackett, manager of business and development at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.
“There’s such a pressing need for infrastructure development at Joint Base Lewis-McChord that directly supports the operational needs of the installation as well as what still needs to be done for soldiers and families,” said Brackett, who tracks military construction plans and organizes forums for businesses to discuss work around the base.
Obama’s budget projects more military growth in Washington, beyond the $519 million he wants for projects in 2012.
It shows that the Navy anticipates spending more than $700 million to develop a second explosives-handling wharf at Naval Base Kitsap, the home port of eight Trident ballistic-missile submarines.
Environmental studies are under way on the Kitsap expansion, and the public will have opportunities to comment well before construction begins, a base spokesman said. It’s intended to modernize the base, not to make room for more submarines, the Navy has told the Kitsap Sun.
Lewis-McChord grew steadily over the past decade. It now has more than 31,000 soldiers, up from about 18,000 in 2003. Its payroll topped $2.4 billion in the 2009 federal budget year, and it is Pierce County’s largest employer.
The base is in line for more growth if the Pentagon follows through with a plan to build up an Army aviation brigade by adding to existing units at Lewis-McChord, bringing another 1,400 soldiers and 44 helicopters to the base.
That proposal is in the 2012 Defense Department budget, as well. It marks $82 million for projects related to the aviation unit.
Off base, Brackett is watching plans to pay for the impacts of that growth.
“There are some things they have pressing needs for – traffic, sewage treatment, elementary education are all pressing,” he said.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646