On Monday, the Pentagon provided Congress with a list of construction projects that could be delayed or stopped in order to reallocate funding to President Trump’s proposed southern border wall. The President declared a national emergency in order to redirect funding to the endeavor, before having that decision reversed via votes in the House and Senate. The president then vetoed their reversal, bringing the border wall construction back into play.
“Today I am vetoing this resolution,” the president told the media while standing alongside law enforcement officials. “Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it.”
The list provided includes hundreds of projects that have not yet had contracts awarded to begin construction. According to Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesman for the Pentagon, should acting Defense Secretary 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 $3.6 billion in barrier construction.”
The list, Buccino added, does not include any military housing, barracks, or dormitory projects. This is of particular import as the Department of Defense (DOD) has been inundated with complaints about the poor quality and health risks associated with living in military housing as a result of contracting housing efforts out to private companies. While no initiative has yet taken shape to address these issues, cutting funds from military housing amidst the public outrage tied to housing issues would be politically unpopular.
Despite keeping the DOD’s housing issues out of the potential cuts, some lawmakers are still calling the president out for removing funds intended for military readiness in order to fund the wall.
“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,” said Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Pentagon is seeking an additional $7.2 billion in emergency construction funds in its 2020 budget request in order to backfill funding that will be reallocated to wall construction. If all goes according to plan and the budget is approved, Buccino says, no construction efforts may actually be affected. However, with strong opposition to the idea of further expanding the defense budget, approving that additional $7.2 billion is anything but assured.
Trump is seeking to secure $3.6 billion from the DOD toward a total of $8.2 billion his emergency declaration calls for to fund the wall initiative. The DOD list of projects that could be delayed or canceled includes a training support facility at Fort Rucker, Alabama, a UAV hangar at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, and an air traffic control tower at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Other projects include:
- A hazardous material storage facility at Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany
- An operational readiness training complex at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii
- A digital air/ground integration range at Fort Knox, Kentucky
- A munitions disassembly complex at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey
- A wastewater treatment plant at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point
- A dining hall at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
- F-35 vertical landing pads and runways at Miramar, California
For a complete list of all programs potentially affected by border wall construction, read the PDF here.