Highest-Ranking Marine Corps General: We need those funds, Mr. President. You're hurting us.

The Commanding General of the Marine Corps, Robert B. Neller, is officially on record now concerning President Donald Trump's desire to take up to $3.6 billion from the military construction budget for his border wall.

That money was initially appropriated by Congress for hurricane repairs at Camp Lejeune, N.C, but instead the President has expressed his desire to take it for his own political purposes.

General Neller says that the marine base is needing to replace the old buildings that were damaged by Hurricane Florence last September, and not only that, but if they don't get it their military readiness will be affected.

“We have a very clear stated requirement for repair at Camp Lejeune. The total bill is about $3.4, $3.5 billion,” Neller told USNI News at the WEST 2019 conference, cohosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA.

“We don’t have money for that. If we have to pay that ourselves, it’ll take the MILCON budget of the Marine Corps for probably the next four years. So our requirement is well known within the Department of Defense, and I’m hopeful that now that the Congress has passed the border security thing and passed all the approps for the government for the rest of the year and whatever decision the President has made, it’ll clear the way for a discussion to take place about what we need to do to repair Camp Lejeune.”

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller walk through buildings with other base leadership during a visit to Jacksonville, N.C., Jan. 22, 2019. US Marine Corps Photo

“The buildings at Camp Lejeune that were new, they weathered the hurricane. And this was a generational storm: it came in, the winds were strong enough to tear the roofs off 40-, 50-, 60-year-old buildings, and then it rained for three straight days. So the damage is not clearly visible like it is on the panhandle of Florida when (Hurricane) Michael came through with really high devastating winds that leveled the place. It’s all internal,” he said of the damage, which includes mold and other water damage.“We’ve gone through, we’ve patched the roofs, but some of these buildings, we believe, the cost of repair is not a good way; they need to be replaced. But we have a requirement and I’m hopeful that now that the border security discussion has been settled, at least temporarily, that we’ll be able to get some attention on this.”

General Neller also warned that they need to get this done soon because "the repair bill has got to be paid" sooner rather than later.

“If we don’t get some help, we would have to pay that ourselves, and that would affect our readiness,” he said, since money would likely be internally reprogrammed and have to come from other accounts such as operations and maintenance or procurement.“And we’ve made a lot of progress on our readiness because of the resources we’ve been given by the Congress, and we don’t want to go back. So we’re going to need some assistance, otherwise we will have to take some cuts in other places.”


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