The Pentagon has disclosed the list of projects President Donald Trump wants to divert funding from to pay for his proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the list, which the Defense Department provided to Congress yesterday, the military would take the biggest hits, with dozens, possibly hundreds, of military construction projects at risk of delay or cancellation as a result of the national emergency the president declared last month.
Speaking to CNN, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said should acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan "determine that construction along the southwest border is necessary to aid the mission of military personnel supporting the Department of Homeland Security, some projects within this pool may be used to fund up to $3.6B in barrier construction."
The list includes projects valued at $12.9 billion that are "unobligated." This means that construction projects have yet to be awarded. Among the projects at risk of being slashed are $41 million for repairs to a heating system at Eielson Air Force Base outside Fairbanks, Alaska, and $17 million for a crash rescue station at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. The Pentagon has provided minimal guidance as to which of these projects would be cut, however.
Democrats are crying foul, particularly Senator Jack Reed (R.I.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a statement, Reed slammed the Trump administration's decision:
“We know President Trump wants to take money from our national security accounts to pay for his wall, and now we have a list of some of the projects and needed base repairs that could be derailed or put on the chopping block as a result.
What President Trump is doing is a slap in the face to our military that makes our border and the country less secure. He is planning to take funds from real, effective operational priorities and needed projects and divert them to his vanity wall. That may help shore up his political base, but it could come at the expense of our military bases and the men and women of our armed forces who rely on them.
A bipartisan majority of Congress went on record in voting to rebuke this ill-conceived idea. Now that members of Congress can see the potential impact this proposal could have on projects in their home states, I hope they will take that into consideration before the vote to override the President’s veto.”
Several high-profile Democrats have joined Reed in condemning the Pentagon's proposal.
Senator Tim Kaine (VA) said the sheer length of the list is evidence that constructing the wall is not "feasible."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) said the Pentagon's list "is one reason a bipartisan majority voted to terminate his 'emergency.'"
Senator Cory Booker (NJ), one of the president's more vocal critics, said the United States "should not put our national security at risk for a wall we don't need."
Senator Dick Durbin (IL) was also firm in his disavowal of the list, writing in a series of tweets that Republicans must "put the military ahead of party politics."
The cuts to military construction projects aren't the only way the president would like to fund the proposed wall. Acting budget chief Russell Vought announced that Trump's proposed 2020 budget asks Congress for an additional $8.6 billion, which would be enough to “finish” the project. That figure is $7 billion more than the Trump administration asked for the border wall in any previous budget requests.
Last week, the White House slammed Democrats in a social media post, using a quote from politician Betsy McCaughey, who served as an economic adviser on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, to make the case against "weak borders."
President Trump declared a national emergency last month, a move which allows him to access billions of dollars to construct a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border after Congress denied his requests for funding.
The president has been accused of manufacturing a crisis. In fact, his own reasoning was used against him.
“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” he told NBC’s Peter Alexander when asked about his prior statements on the merits of executive orders, which he had long accused former President Barack Obama of using to circumvent the decisions of Congress. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
As he continued to speak during the news conference, the president outlined what would happen next:
“We will have a national emergency. And we will then be sued… And we will possibly get a bad ruling. And then we will get another bad ruling. And then we will end up in the Supreme Court.”
The declaration of a national emergency is the culmination of a long fight over funding for the president’s pet project that resulted in a shutdown that kicked off in December 2018 after he declined to sign a stopgap funding bill because he disagreed with the decision of Congress not to provide the funding he’d requested for his proposed border wall. As the shutdown wore on, he insisted that it was simply a ploy by Democrats to cost him re-election.
Multiple lawsuits have been filed in an effort to halt the president's national emergency declaration. Last week, Congress passed a bipartisan measure blocking the declaration, but Trump vetoed the measure on March 15. It was the first veto of his presidency.