WASHINGTON — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan promised to send to the Senate — by the end of the day — a list of military construction projects that could have their funding raided to help pay for a border wall project.
Shanahan made the promise to Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) during a Thursday morning hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Shanahan and Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) David Norquist had been asked by several senators in several ways during the hearing to outline the criteria that will be determine which projects would be on a list to have funds transferred for work on the U.S.-Mexico border. They did not provide details or criteria.
A list of the projects will set off a scramble among House and Senate members to protect the money that had been earmarked for local military facilities, congressional staffers have said.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) said senators had been “sandbagged” since many, including himself, had been asking for a list and told one was not available.
“Your service secretaries and chiefs had that list. They were willing to send it but said we cannot send it without the secretary (of defense) permission,” Kaine said at the hearing. “Now you are going to send it to us after the vote (on disapproving the presidential declaration of a national emergency).”
Shanahan said there was no “deliberate attempt to mislead the committee” on which projects are vulnerable to a funds transfer.
“We always have a list of projects,” Shanahan said. “It is not like we don’t.”
Questions about the border wall and money requested in the fiscal 2020 budget for the wall occupied much of the hearing, including having Shanahan and Gen. Joe Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreeing with comments made by other military officials that there is no military threat on the border with Mexico.
Earlier in the hearing, Shanahan said no list had been created as to which projects had the most likely to have funds shifted. Several senators expressed skepticism, saying it has been more than two months since the Pentagon was informed such a money shift was likely.
On Wednesday, Pentagon officials acknowledged to TMN during interviews that all the service branches have been working to rank projects.
Under questioning from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), Shanahan repeatedly said he has not met with any senators to reassure them that projects in their states would not be targeted.
However, the next senator to question Shanahan after King — Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) — started her questioning by announcing that Shanahan had indeed met with her and reassured her no projects in her state would be in jeopardy.