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|February 17, 2020|
Pentagon to divert $3.8 billion from its budget to build more of Trumpís border barrier
WASHINGTON - The Department of Defense said it is diverting $3.83 billion from elsewhere in its budget to build 177 more miles of President Trumpís border barrier, setting in motion a broader White House plan to take some $7.2 billion from the Pentagon budget this year for the project without congressional approval as Trump heads into the election.
The Pentagon informed Congress on Thursday of its plans to divert the $3.83 billion from the purchase of aircraft and other equipment and instead use the funds for the construction of border barriers. The Pentagon is moving the money using an obscure counternarcotics law that allows the Defense Department to build fencing for other federal, state and local agencies in known drug-smuggling corridors.
According to budget documents reviewed by The Washington Post, the Pentagon is pulling the funding from two F-35 fighter jets and two Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft for the Marine Corps; one P-8A reconnaissance aircraft for the Navy; and four C-130J transport planes and eight MQ-9 Reaper drones for the Air Force.
In addition, funding will be diverted from programs to update Humvees and trucks for the Army, buy $1.3 billion in ďmiscellaneousĒ new equipment for the National Guard and Reserves and develop certain U.S. Navy vessels. The Pentagon told Congress the funding is either in excess of the militaryís needs or is not yet needed given the timeline of the programs in question.
The $7.2 billion the White House is targeting in the Pentagon budget this year would give Trump enough money to complete nearly 900 miles of new barriers by 2022, a plan that allows him to campaign for reelection on his signature immigration initiative, and the budget to pay for it.
Robert G. Salesses, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense integration, said he was aware of discussions to take more money from the Pentagon budget apart from the $3.83 billion announced Thursday but that no decisions had been made.
The latest diversion of Pentagon funds, Salesses said, comes in response to a request the Department of Homeland Security made in mid-January. The $3.83 billion, he said, will pay for the construction of 177 miles of 30-foot bollard-style barriers on federally controlled land in six border sectors: San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, Tucson, El Paso and Del Rio. It will be contracted through the Army Corps of Engineers.
ďItís clear that we are meeting the requirements that have been identified by the president to accelerate and build the border barrier as quickly and as effectively as we can,Ē Salesses said.
Critics from both parties say Trumpís move over the past two years to take what now amounts to nearly $10 billion appropriated by Congress for the military has set a dangerous precedent in executive overreach, which could open the door for a future administration to defy Congressís constitutionally mandated power of the purse. Trump regularly said on the campaign trail that Mexico would pay for his border wall.
On Monday, the White House released its budget request for 2021, which included $2 billion in border wall funds, far less than what Trump is planning to take from defense funding.
The Trump administration is making the moves without approval from Congress, which under the U.S. Constitution is given the power to appropriate federal funds. Some U.S. states and advocacy groups are challenging the legality of the administrationís plans in federal courts. (Source: The Washington Post)
Story Date: February 14, 2020