Trump’s border wall to take $3.6 billion from Pentagon projects
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s administration said Tuesday it will redirect $3.6 billion in Pentagon money to step up construction of the president’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, drawing howls from Democrats who said the money would be better spent on military construction.
Though long expected, the transfer of money to speed work on Trump’s signature domestic policy proposal prompted a sharp rebuke from Democrats on Capitol Hill as lawmakers got word about which projects would be cut to pay for wall construction.
Pentagon officials told reporters that 127 construction projects would lose funding, though the administration declined to detail which projects, specifically. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Military Academy at West Point is on the list.
“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 said.
Transfers: Pentagon tells Congress how projects might be delayed to pay for wall
Emergency: Trump declares emergency to free up billions of dollars for border wall
SCOTUS: Supreme Court allows Trump’s border wall spending
The Supreme Court ruled in July that Trump could use billions in a separate pot of military funding to begin building a portion of the wall along the nation’s southern border. The court’s order came months after Trump declared a national emergency to redirect funds from other federal agencies to the Department of Homeland Security.
The $3.6 billion in military construction at issue on Tuesday faces separate litigation.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday it will seek a court order to block use of the funds as part of its ongoing lawsuit challenging the emergency declaration.
“The fact that the government sat on these so-called ‘emergency funds’ for seven months further confirms that this is nothing but an unlawful power grab,” said Dror Ladin, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.
The money would pay for 175 miles of border barrier.
Trump made the border wall a central theme of his 2016 campaign. Though the president has framed barrier construction as already well underway, most of that work was to replace existing fencing. The White House has struggled to get Congress to sign off on a large investment for new wall construction.
In a letter sent to the top Democrat and Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper outlined where the funds would be used and the areas where new fencing would be raised.
The letter, first obtained by the Daily Beast and later confirmed by USA TODAY, details 11 projects that Esper notes are “necessary to support the use of the armed forces in connection with the national emergency” that the president declared earlier this year.
“These projects will deter illegal entry, increase the vanishing time of those illegally crossing the border and channel migrants to ports of entry,” the letter reads. “In short, these barriers will allow DoD to provide support to DHS more efficiently and effectively.”
The letter includes projects in Arizona, Texas, California and New Mexico. The projects will provide 140 miles of fencing, including some of which will replace current barriers.
Contributing: Associated Press