May 20, 2024

The Navy and Marine Corps are both asking Congress for more than $250 million to address the declining state of their barracks buildings — something that has been highlighted both in media and government watchdog reports — amid a push to prioritize spending on sailors.

The Navy wants to invest $204 million in the restoration of unaccompanied housing — a 24% increase from last year’s request — and the Marine Corps said it’s asking for $65 million, according to materials provided by the Department of the Navy on Friday.

The move comes as military leaders struggle to fund all their priorities after last year’s move by Congress to cap the defense budget as part of a bipartisan agreement. The Navy’s budget director, Rear Adm. Ben Reynolds, stressed that the constraints forced them to “make hard choices.”

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“In those hard choices, we prioritize readiness to deploy and operate our fleet [and] we prioritize our people,” Reynolds said in a briefing to reporters Friday.

The Navy and Marine Corps budget request will now go to Congress, which will take the proposals and craft its own version of the military’s budget this year.

Reynolds said the service made a deliberate choice to spend money on “restoration [and] modernization first to get it to a place where we want our young sailors to live” before shifting to building more new barracks.

The budget documents provided to reporters Friday said that the Navy also wants to spend $1 billion over the next five years for housing construction and renovations.

The Navy, like all the other services, was hammered in a government watchdog report released last year that found deplorable conditions, such as bedbug and cockroach infestations, faulty heating and air conditioning, and security issues, such as doors that couldn’t lock and squatters.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps ordered a forcewide, wall-to-wall inspection of every Marine barracks around the world after a slew of reports and images that showed dirty and unlivable conditions at several Marine bases across the country.

Reynolds also noted that barracks modernization is just one aspect of the Navy’s budgetary push to take better care of sailors.

The Navy’s budget chief said that the service is also asking to fully fund the sustainment of its gyms as well as barracks buildings.

Reynolds said the Navy wants to pour “more money into our child development centers for our families [and] more money into our well-being and mental health areas.”

According to budget documents, the service also aims to spend $25 million expanding the Naval Community College, fully fund its tuition assistance program and increase funding for mental health and suicide prevention services by $52 million.

Sailors and Marines, as well as troops in the other services, are set for a 4.5% pay hike — an increase that complies with a law that says troops are entitled to an annual raise based on the Employment Cost Index.

The Navy’s No. 2 civilian leader, Under Secretary of the Navy Erik Raven, told reporters that the service wants to do more for sailors, but it is being held back by Congress, which still hasn’t passed this year’s budget despite the new fiscal year starting last October.

“We have initiatives that are still pending in [last year’s budget], that we are prevented from getting at,” Raven told reporters Friday.

“But the first order of business is to make sure that we’re not moving backwards in the meantime,” he said.

Related: Navy Sinking Nearly $1 Billion into Barracks Construction Amid Revelations of Poor Living Conditions

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