- As part of a fiscal year 2019 spending bill — the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019 — federal lawmakers have earmarked $10.3 billion for military construction projects, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. This is a 2.4% increase ($241 million) from last year's allocation for such projects.
- The measure provides funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its Directorate of Civil Works (for harbor maintenance, lock, dam, levee and environmental restoration), the Naval Facilities Engineering Command and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (for hospitals, medical clinics, cemeteries). Some specifics of the bill include $1.6 billion for military family housing, $3 billion for VA construction projects and infrastructure repairs like seismic retrofits, $2 billion for civil works construction and $3.7 billion for civil works operations and maintenance.
- What the bill does not provide is money to execute an agency reorganization backed by President Donald Trump's administration. The White House wanted to move the Corps' Civil Works Program from the Department of Defense to the Department of Transportation and the Department of the Interior, but some lawmakers made a statement saying that no funds could be used to make such organizational changes.
This is sure to come as good news for those contractors that specialize in Corps infrastructure, VA hospitals or the other types of military construction projects that fall under this bill. And it can be a lucrative niche. For example, many large contractors like AECOM, Fluor Corp. and Gilbane Building Co. have divisions dedicated to military and other federal projects.
However, there are opportunities for small general contractors and subcontractors to get into this niche. The first stop before bidding on federal work should be the small business liaisons within each agency. For example, the Department of Defense provides Army, Navy, Air Force and other defense-related small business contacts that can help contractors understand the requirements of doing business with the military and find the best opportunities. This list includes a link to the many small business offices maintained by the Corps, an important contact for any contractor wanting to get into the federal construction arena.
For the past few years, the Corps has had the additional responsibility of overseeing construction on any VA construction project valued at $100 million or more. Congress enacted this measure after the VA exceeded its budget on a new hospital in Aurora, Colorado, and experienced numerous delays. Some lawmakers credit the Corps with turning around the $1.7 billion project — which came in at about $1 billion over budget — and point to the agency's construction practices as a roadmap for future VA projects.