A major renovation of the Air Force Academy’s Cadet Chapel is on hold indefinitely after $68 million slated for the project was reallocated for fixing hurricane damage at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced the change Wednesday on Twitter in a plea for hurricane funding to rebuild Tyndall, which suffered damage to all of its 1,200 buildings when Hurricane Michael slammed the base in October.
The Air Force estimates repairs will cost more than $3 billion, and Wilson chose to cancel 61 projects at other bases to get started on the work while waiting on Congress to approve additional funding. More projects will face the ax unless Congress comes up with disaster relief money for hurricane repairs for Tyndall, she warned.
“We will be forced to cut more critical facility and readiness requirements if we don’t receive it by May/June,” Wilson said.
The Air Force asked for $1.2 billion in immediate disaster cash with $3.7 billion more added to the 2020 Air Force budget.
The Cadet Chapel is the most prominent of the projects Wilson canceled, but other work in Colorado is also on hold.
At Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, work on air intake valves to the underground command post was put on hold as well as air conditioning work on a satellite control facility at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora. A demolition project at Peterson Air Force Base was also delayed.
The projects were slated to get money from the Air Force’s facilities maintenance fund. Unlike military construction budgets, where projects are specifically authorized by lawmakers, the Air Force has wide discretion in what it does with maintenance money.
The chapel decision is likely one of the last for Wilson, who is set to leave her Air Force post in May to take a top university job in El Paso, Texas.
The academy’s chapel has leaked in rainy weather since it opened in 1962. The leaks are due to a cost-cutting decision during the Kennedy administration that saw an elaborate system of gaskets designed to seal its aluminum skin replaced by cheaper caulking.
A new seal system was planned along with other repairs that would have seen the building gutted. The repairs were expected to take as long as four years.
The academy estimates that 500,000 tourists annually visit the architectural wonder, recognizable for its soaring stained glass and 150-foot spires.
The academy had planned to close the chapel for work beginning Jan. 1 but delayed repairs in December. A new date for the work hadn’t been scheduled when Wilson postponed it indefinitely.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx