CAMP PENDLETON — The Marine Corps Base is getting more than $128 million to construct some much-needed buildings and services.
The construction funding was secured through this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which specifies the annual budget and expenditures for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
The $128 million includes $71.7 million for a new mess hall and warehouse to be constructed on the base, as well as $17.7 million for an ambulatory care center and replacement of a dental clinic, and $38.87 million for a I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) consolidated information center.
The I MEF provides the Marine Corps with a Marine Air Ground Task Force that is capable of generating and deploying ready forces for crisis response, forward presence and major combat operations.
“This funding is critical for the continued support of the operating forces that call MCB Camp Pendleton home, as well as increasing their overall lethality so they can be ready to respond to crisis at a moment’s notice,” said base Capt. David Mancilla in an email.
The NDAA also includes elements that address several priorities Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) pushed for throughout his first year in office as congressman for the 49th district, which includes Camp Pendleton.
“This funding, as well as other provisions of the NDAA that I pushed for like protections for military families in unsafe private housing, will help ensure that our service members have the resources and support they need to defend our country,” Levin said in a statement.
The NDAA has several proposals from Levin’s Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, which he introduced back in March after a Reuters investigation found poor living conditions in privatized military housing on Camp Pendleton and other military bases. According to the investigation, service members and families were living in homes with mold blooms, water leaks and rodent and bug infestations.
According to Eric Mee, a spokesman for Levin, proposals from the Safe Housing act that were included in the NDAA are:
- Requiring private military housing companies to pay for permanent and temporary relocation costs associated with health and environmental hazards in a housing unit.
- Creating a maintenance work order system. Levin originally proposed requiring DoD to create the system, Mee said in an email, but the NDAA only requires housing companies to maintain such a system.
- Requiring installation commanders to review mold mitigation and pest control plans annually.
- Prohibiting additional fees imposed by private housing contractors.
- Prohibiting payment of incentive fees to private housing contractors that are “bad actors.”
- Allowing for investigation reprisal or retaliation in response to reporting an issue related to a housing unit.
Though Levin is ultimately pleased to see the NDAA go through, he has concerns about other aspects of the bill.
“I am disappointed that the bill could give the President discretion to use some funding for a border wall,” Levin said in his statement announcing the bill’s passage.
Levin also said the bill still fails to adequately address toxic chemicals like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are a group of man-made chemicals that include perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C8. According to Levin, these chemicals have been plaguing communities across the country, including in his own district.
Additionally, the NDAA includes an amendment by Levin that provides additional funding for the Naval University Research Initiative, which works with universities like University of California San Diego on defense research.
The bill also includes another Levin amendment that requires the Secretary of Defense to put together a comprehensive report on the DoD’s “Combating Trafficking in Persons Initiative.”
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son