Pentagon diverts construction money for border wall
The Pentagon has approved diverting $3.6 billion from its military construction funds to the building of the notorious border wall between the United States and Mexico.
Zachary Cohen and Ryan Browne had the news for CNN:
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has authorized the diverting of $3.6 billion in military construction funds for 11 wall projects on the southern border with Mexico, according to defense officials and a letter from Esper to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has been obtained by CNN.
In his letter, Esper told Congress he has “determined that 11 military construction projects along the international border with Mexico, with an estimated total cost of $3.6 billion, are necessary to support the use of the armed forces in connection with the national emergency.”
The letter does not include the word “wall,” as is typical in Defense Department announcements of this kind, but details how the funds will be used for new fencing projects at various border locations.
The announcement fulfills a promise made by President Donald Trump in February to tap military construction funds to build his border wall. The move was slammed by Congress when it was first announced and only recently completed a Pentagon legal review.
Claudia Grisales reported for NPR that:
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was among the first lawmakers to say his district will be impacted by the funding cuts, for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“This decision will harm already planned, important projects intended to support our service members at military installations in New York, across the United States, and around the world,” Schumer said. “It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country that President Trump is willing to cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build.”
Schumer went on to say that Trump is trying to “usurp Congress’s exclusive power of the purse and loot vital funds from our military.” He also signaled Congress will strongly oppose any funds for new wall construction.
The Washington Post reported that Pentagon officials said they will halt 127 military construction projects to help build 175 miles of wall.
CBS’ David Martin and Camilo Montoya-Galvez noted the pre-election context:
With a little over a year left until the 2020 presidential election, Mr. Trump has been urging officials to ramp up efforts to build new barriers or replace dilapidated ones in both public and private lands near the southern border as quickly as possible. Along with other promises to crackdown on illegal immigration, Mr. Trump’s vow to erect a wall along the border with Mexico proved to be a galvanizing message for his ardent supporters during the 2016 campaign, and he’s hoping construction will energize his base for his reelection.
After a two-month-long impasse with congressional Democrats that led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Mr. Trump declared a national emergency over immigration in February and vowed to take unilateral action to secure funding for his long-promised border wall. Along with taking funds from other government accounts, the administration said it would tap into billions of funds allocated for the military.
The decision garnered widespread criticism from Democrats and prompted several groups to mount legal challenges against the first $2.5 billion transfer. A federal judge initially blocked this reprogramming but earlier in the summer, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling allowed the administration to use these military funds while litigation over their transfer moves forward.