GovSpeak: “MILCON”

The widely used abbreviation for military construction is MILCON (also written variously as MilCon, Milcon or milcon). This typically refers to any construction, alteration, development, conversion or extension of any kind carried out with respect to a military installation, including those for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force; the Department of Defense; the Army and Air National Guard; and the Army, Navy and Air Force reserves.

Interestingly, funding for MILCON does not come through the Defense Appropriations Bill. Instead, it is taken up by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ respective Subcommittees on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies. These subcommittees are responsible for funding the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as all construction activities within the Department of Defense, including military family housing. They also fund activities related to base closures and realignments (BRAC).

On May 31, the House approved a FY 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, H.R. 5854, which totals $71.1 billion in discretionary funding, the same as that enacted in FY 2012 but $694 million below President Obama’s budget request. The Senate Appropriations Committee has introduced its own bill, S.3215, which provides for $71.9 billion in discretionary funding, $465.9 million below the president’s budget request and $227.7 million above the FY 2012 enacted level, but the Senate has not yet voted on this bill. Each of these bills aims to provide the nation’s military with the infrastructure needed to house, train and equip military personnel while also funding veterans’ benefits and programs.

The timeline for approval of a MILCON project is quite long, often at least three years from the initial service-specific review to approval by Congress. The service requesting approval must justify each request by filling out forms DD 1390 and DD 1391, which define the scope of work and its projected costs, and which ultimately are forwarded to Congress as part of the budget request. Thus the military often finds it quicker, easier, and less expensive to seek out alternative solutions to their space needs, including purchasing or leasing existing facilities. An Army pamphlet, for example, states that “the use of existing available facilities owned by the [Department of the Army], DOD, other Federal agencies, State and local governments, commercial establishments, and private entities should be evaluated before submitting requests for new or replacement facilities.” For this reason, MILCON generally is considered the facility solution of last resort.