WASHINGTON — The Pentagon expects to have fully contracted its first batch of money to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border by the end of next week, Pentagon officials told TMN on Friday.
Almost all of the $2.5 billion taken from other Pentagon accounts earlier this year has been matched with contractors to begin wall construction for 129 miles at locations in New Mexico, Arizona and California. Only $3 million still must be obligated and that will occur next week, officials told TMN.
The reprogrammed funds came from counter-narcotics, personnel and retirement accounts and other areas as part of President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency earlier this year.
There was roughly 645 miles of border wall when Trump took office in January 2017, covering about one-third of the U.S.-Mexico border. Originally there was to be $2.8 billion in contacts for 247 miles of walls or barriers, more than half with Pentagon dollars; of that, all but 17 miles was to replace existing barriers.
There are two general areas from where Pentagon funds have been plucked for the border wall.
The first pot is known as “284 money,” which are funds that had been unspent from other accounts and were reprogrammed to wall construction. That is where the $2.5 billion that is allocated for building 129 miles of wall comes from.
Ground was broken on the first of the 284-funded projects on Aug. 22,, near El Centro, Calif..
The other pot is “2808 funds.” There is roughly $3.6 billion taken from military construction projects to make that pot flush with border wall cash.
“It’s going to take, you know, months to get that, as I mentioned, the money for the 28 — 284 projects came on — came over in — I believe in — in May and we’ve just completed that process now. So it’s — it’s going to be a few months but our goal is that by the end of next year, we will have completed over 100 — 450 miles of wall construction all told across the entire federal government,” Jonathan Hoffman, chief Pentagon spokesperson, told Pentagon reporters on Thursday.
Hoffman described the process as “a bubble; it’ll take a little while as we do the planning, we buy the property, we do the environmental assessments and all of the other things … we need to do, and then … you’ll see a rapid increase in the amount,” he said. “Right now, we’re at a pace of about a mile a day and we’ll see that … continue to go up, so.”
Hoffman told TMN, in response to a question, that the Pentagon works off a list received from the Department of Homeland Security that prioritizes projects “that they would like to see, the wall projects they would like to see completed.”
He said Defense Secretary Mark Esper has “not made any adjustment to where the wall will be built.
“We’re relying on the Border Patrol agents on the ground, the people that have the most knowledge to tell us where the border wall should be built,” Hoffman said.
He did not respond to the question of whether Esper decided which Pentagon military construction projects would be raided for the wall funding.
The issue of providing the Pentagon new funds for those projects that lost money has stalled work on next year’s defense bill.