U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, is a booster for the $550 billion defense authorization bill the House approved last week and for good reason — it includes billions for Navy shipbuilding that will help the Gulf Coast.
But the bill also has a provision with a distinctly local flavor — an investigation into the Armed Forces Retirement Home beachfront land deal that involves Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr.
The bill makes a major step in getting the Navy to a fleet size of 313 by authorizing funds for 18 ships — eight new ships; three under construction; and seven in the pipeline. The fleet is now at 287 ships.
Taylor is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee and has been concerned about building up the size of the Navy’s fleet.
There are also millions of dollars in the bill for the Gulf Coast, such as $6.5 million to relocate the base entrance for the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center.
But additional items sponsored by Taylor are aimed at the sale of Armed Forces Retirement Home property. One provision would require the Defense Department’s inspector general to conduct an investigation “of the acquisition and subsequent disposal in 2003 of beachfront property adjacent to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi” and another would eliminate the “special authority of requiring that future disposals of excess property by the Armed Forces Retirement Home be done in accordance with existing laws pertaining to the disposal of federal property.”
Warr and his family bought the property, but he and his wife are now facing Katrina fraud charges.