WASHINGTON — The Trump administration plans to again remove money from military construction funding to boost dollars for a border wall, leaving some members of Congress again fuming and again most likely unable to stop the shift.
Trump plan to take $7.2 billion from military construction and other military accounts this year — double the amount that was so-called “reprogramed” from military construction funds in the last budget.
The White House got a pass on such actions when Democrats dropped language prohibiting the shift in the budget bill for 2020. The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act — the defense bill — barred diverting military funds for the wall, a provision negotiated away in conference meetings to settle differences between it and the Senate version of the bill.
As a result, the 2020 defense bill does not contain restrictions on border wall funds diversion. It means that the Pentagon – and not Mexico as vowed by Trump – will be paying for the border wall.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, talking to Pentagon reporters on Tuesday, expressed agreement with the gambit“if that’s what it takes.
“The first priority of DoD is protection of the homeland,” Esper said in a joint news conference with Japan’s defense minister. “The southwest border is a security issue and so we’ll see how things play out, but we remain committed to supporting the Department of Homeland Security in its mission.”
Last year the Pentagon promised no construction projects would be canceled or delayed, so long as Congress replaced the money shifted to border projects. However, in the final budget passed in December, Congress blocked any moves to pay twice for the same projects.
That means projects where money was taken for the wall will be ledt unfunded. The funds comes from money initially directed for building training centers, schools and other facilities on military bases.
The shift was first reported by the Washington Post.
The new money transfer would bring the total amount devoted to border wall construction under Trump to $18.4 billion. So far, the administration has only completed about 101 miles of barrier construction, all replacing existing barriers.
Trump promised 450 miles completed by the end of 2020. The White House has changed the rules and is counting miles of fencing under construction — rather than completed — as their goal metric.