Pentagon to Divert Another $3.8 Billion to Pay for Trump’s Border Wall

Pentagon to Divert Another $3.8 Billion to Pay for Trump’s Border Wall

The U.S. Defense Department sent Congress a request to shift almost $4 billion from the military budget to pay for a wall on the border with Mexico, a central promise of President Donald Trump's campaign for the White House four years ago and bid this year for a second term.

"Consistent with the President's April 4, 2018, direction to the Secretary of Defense, DoD used its statutory authority to provide support that aids in blocking drug-smuggling corridors across worldwide boundaries of the United States", DoD spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said.

"DHS has identified areas along the southern border of the United States that are being used by individuals, groups, and transnational criminal organizations as drug smuggling corridors, and determined that the construction of additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border is necessary in order to impede and deny drug smuggling activities", reads the request, signed by acting DoD comptroller Elaine McCusker.

To take the funding, Trump used the counternarcotics law, as well as another little-known statute in USA code, which allows the Pentagon, in the event of a national emergency requiring the deployment of troops, to divert military construction funds to pay for infrastructure needed by those forces.

Esper spoke on the sidelines of an worldwide security conference in Munich. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Senate Appropriations Committee vice chairman, said.

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. His state is home to Lockheed Martin production facilities for the F-35 fighter.

Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas said the Pentagon's plan was "contrary to Congress's constitutional authority". The same thing happened previous year when the administration moved $6.1 billion from the Pentagon's budget for the border project.

Too early to predict end of coronavirus outbreak
A deliveryman collects frozen food at a store of Hema Fresh in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, January 27, 2020. Earlier this month, the United States began to bar entry to any foreigners who have recently traveled to China.

The dispute has slowed but not blocked all Pentagon funding from being shifted to wall construction.

Trump promised to build the wall along most of the 3,200km US-Mexico border - paid for by Mexico - during his 2016 presidential campaign.

In the latest proposal, Air Force and Navy aviation take the brunt of the proposed cuts.

The money was to be culled from various programmes for buying tactical vehicles for the Army National Guard, vessels for the Navy, and combat and transport aircraft for the Navy and Air Force. The Pentagon is transferring money that would have been used for eight MQ-9 Reaper drones, two more C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, and $1.3 billion in "miscellaneous" National Guard and reserves equipment. "Congress rejected President Trump's full request for wall funding, which is why he is now orchestrating this backdoor mechanism to prop up a political vanity project", they said.

"This is a congressional special interest item", said the Pentagon documents, referring to the targets of numerous cuts.

Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesman, said Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the transfer after receiving the request from the Department of Homeland Security last month.

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