By Bill Robinson
Even if the White House and Congress can’t agree and send the federal budget and taxes off the “fiscal cliff,” near-term funding to continue building the facility to destroy 525 tons of chemical agents at the Blue Grass Army Depot may be little affected.
Craig Williams, who co-chairs the Chemical Demilitarization Citizens Advisory Board, interrupted the panel’s quarterly meeting Tuesday to say he had just received text messages on his cell phone confirming that a plan to provide more than $36.4 million for the project had been approved.
Both the staff of the House of Representatives subcommittee on military construction and the Defense Department official responsible for the project had notified him, Williams said.
“It’s a much brighter day today than it was yesterday,” an elated Williams told the board.
Had the funds not been approved, some 410 people working on the project would have been idled Jan. 2, according to copies of a Pentagon memo sent to Congress that Williams made available. Another 90 would have faced layoffs in early March.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, as he had been in the past, had been instrumental in securing the funding arrangement, Williams said.
Numerous parties had been working for months to reach the good outcome, he said.
The reprogramming of existing funds was necessary, he said, because Congress had failed to adopt a budget, and the federal government was operating under a continuing congressional resolution. While such an arrangement keeps the government operating, it limits many funding streams, Williams said.
“We’ve avoided our own ‘fiscal cliff,’” he said.
However, “The Congress giveth and the Congress also taketh away,” Williams cautioned, and continued effort will be needed to keep the project on track.
Bill Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 624-6690.