By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 13, 2009
To help military personnel forced to sell their homes amid the current real estate crisis, the compromise stimulus bill contains $555 million for the secretary of defense to acquire title to a military person's property or reimburse the individual for losses after a private sale or foreclosure. The bill also includes nearly $3 billion in construction funds to repair and modernize military facilities.
The new program established in the stimulus bill is called the Homeowners Assistance Fund. It is primarily for wounded who need to move for medical reasons, surviving spouses of those killed in action or Defense Department personnel suddenly ordered to relocate. The program is also available to the widows of Defense Department civilian employees killed in the line of duty. It builds on a program to help homeowners near military bases being closed.
Senate Appropriations Committee members described $2.3 billion of the military construction money as needed to aid "quality of life and family-friendly military construction projects," such as barracks for those returning from overseas deployments, family housing, child-care centers, and health and dental clinics on bases in the United States.
Another major element in that package is $481 million for new or expanded facilities to take care of medical and social service needs for the wounded and their families.
The only major security item dropped from the measure was $1 billion that the Senate had added for the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration for use in the nuclear weapons program. The Senate report said $900 million was to be used to handle the backlog of maintenance and to rebuild facilities, some of which date to the Manhattan Project during World War II. The remaining $100 million was to be directed at "advanced computer research and development."
An array of arms-control advocacy groups opposed the funding, as did several House members. "When I found out that the Senate had slipped in $1 billion for nuclear weapons programs, even as it was cutting funds for school construction, I was appalled," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). "I'm pleased that this provision was dropped from the final version of the bill."
The compromise bill gives the State Department $228 million to upgrade its computers and computer security, a program that has had trouble getting fully funded.