President Trump plans to suck another $7.2 billion out of Pentagon construction projects and anti-drug programs to fund more of his border wall, reports the Washington Post.
That’s “five times what Congress authorized him to spend on the project in the 2020 budget,” the Post says in its exclusive report, citing “internal planning figures.”
Added to last year’s fund diversions for the wall (or fence), the total would come to $18.4 billion.
“The Trump administration has completed 101 miles of new barriers so far, according to the latest figures, far less than the 450 miles the president has promised to erect by the end of the year,” the Post said on Monday. The additional money is aimed at erecting a total of 885 miles of new fencing by early 2022.
Despite Trump’s repeated promises to support the military, his 2016 campaign promise to build an anti-immigrant wall on the border with Mexico appears to be a higher priority for him.
“Several dozen Pentagon construction projects were delayed or suspended as a result of last year’s reprogramming of $3.6 billion,” the Post notes.
Those projects included warehouses for hazardous materials and ship repair facilities in Virginia; a drone pilot training facility in New Mexico; a ballistic missile field in Alaska, a submarine maintence facility in Washington state, buildings at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York and on-base schools, child-care centers and medical centers elsewhere.
The new diversion of funds appears likely to force even more cutbacks for the Pentagon.
“Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were not pleased,” reports the Military Times journal, adding that key Senate Republicans “seemed caught off-guard,” including Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee chairman John Boozman (R-AR).
Boozman said he supports building the wall, but is “reaching out to see if the White House would scale back the number and what the ‘unintended consequences’ might be for moving the money,” Military Times says.
Last month a federal court in El Paso ruled that “the White House broke the law when it commandeered [$3.6 billion in] funds for the border wall that had been authorized by Congress for another purpose,” the Post says. The El Paso court issued an injunction, freezing the funds.
But the Trump administration appealed, and last week the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted the injunction, saying work on the wall can proceed while other legal challenges make their way through the courts.
“The president and his administration viewed that ruling as additional encouragement to take the money again this year,” the Post says, citing “administration officials familiar with the plans.”