Before voting for final approval of next year's defense spending bill Friday, the House soundly defeated a proposal to remove funding intended to renovate or replace schools operated by local school districts on U.S. military bases, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) said.
By a vote of 380-to-39 the House rejected an attempt by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to remove $250 million from the defense appropriations bill that was directed to on-base schools that are severely overcrowded or in poor physical condition.
The funding continues an initiative begun last year when Rep. Dicks --then the Defense Subcommittee Chairman--launched an effort to rehabilitate schools on military bases across the nation, following a comprehensive assessment of Army schools and serious concerns expressed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Rep. Dicks added $250 million to the current-year defense bill to repair and replace these schools, citing an Army analysis which concluded that 19 schools at seven U.S. bases were rated in "poor" condition or were substantially smaller than needed. He said "One of the most urgent concerns for our deployed troops is for their families and kids to be properly cared for, and one area where we have seen great deficiency is the condition of our on-base schools."
Included among the most seriously deficient schools on Army bases were six schools operated by the Clover Park School District at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. With a portion the current-year money, the Army was seeking to construct four schools to replace these six facilities that will be demolished.
Last month, the defense appropriations subcommittee approved another $250 million increment in the Fiscal Year 2012 defense budget, after a defense-wide survey demonstrated similar needs at on-base schools at Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps bases.
The continued funding allows the Pentagon to address another increment of problem schools around the nation, Rep. Dicks said, as he argued successfully against the proposed reduction.