Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan identified all of the projects that could possibly be affected by President Trump’s decision to use emergency authorities to take up to $3.6 billion in military construction funds for his border wall.
Shanahan had promised to deliver the list to lawmakers by the end of the day last Thursday during a tense hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Pentagon didn’t send the file to Capitol Hill until midday Monday, prompting anger from lawmakers who had been requesting it for weeks.
The $12.9 billion pool of initiatives includes military construction projects approved and appropriated by Congress but not yet contracted out by the Pentagon. Of those, projects that involve military housing or that carry award dates before Sept. 30, 2019, won’t be touched, the statement said.
Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesman for Shanahan, said in a statement that if Congress enacts next year’s budget on time and as requested by the administration, the construction projects will all proceed on schedule. But the president’s budget request has already run into opposition on Capitol Hill, and Democrats have rejected the idea of “backfilling” affected Pentagon accounts in the coming budget, meaning some of the projects could face delays as a result of the wall.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the list includes projects that could be derailed or put on the chopping block as a result of Trump’s action. Reed urged fellow senators to take into consideration the projects in their home states when voting on whether to override Trump’s veto of a congressional resolution rejecting his national emergency.
“What President Trump is doing is a slap in the face to our military that makes our border and the country less secure,” Reed said. “He is planning to take funds from real, effective operational priorities and needed projects and divert them to his vanity wall.”
The projects on the list run the gamut, including a hangar for drones at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea and a wastewater treatment plant at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. They represent the full spectrum of construction initiatives that the Pentagon undertakes to maintain a vast network of bases and operations around the globe.
Many of the projects are updates to facilities that affect daily military life on bases — dining halls, schools, fire stations, medical facilities, roads and parking lots. Others are construction projects that directly impact military operations and training, such as firing ranges, aircraft maintenance hangars, flight simulation facilities and munitions depots.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who last week accused Shanahan of sandbagging senators by failing to make the list public for weeks, said Trump “is putting his border wall ahead of the safety of our troops.”
“The projects that could lose funding include military training centers in Virginia, a plant to prevent water contamination at Camp Lejeune and a cybersecurity facility in Georgia,” he said. “I hope my colleagues in Congress will take a serious look at the projects that support our military in their own states and then vote to override the president’s veto.”
Whether any of the projects end up delayed depends in large part on negotiations between congressional lawmakers and the Trump administration over the coming year’s budget. The Trump administration is proposing to “back fill” the $3.6 billion it plans to take from the construction account for the wall, but Democrats have said they aren’t going to fund projects Congress has already funded. The Pentagon has said it won’t cancel any of the projects outright, but the initiatives won’t be able to proceed if they aren’t funded by Congress.
Trump is planning to access the funds for the wall under Section 2808 of the U.S. code that governs the military. It allows the defense secretary, in the event of a national emergency requiring the use of the military, to undertake military construction projects “not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces.”
Congress, meanwhile, voted to reject Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border, but the Senate didn’t pass the resolution with a veto-proof margin. Trump vetoed the legislation late last week.
Trump is also planning to take up to $2.5 billion in counterdrug funds from the Pentagon, a move that doesn’t require the invocation of emergency authorities. Because the counterdrug account has less than $100 million remaining in it, the Pentagon will need to move money from elsewhere in its budget into the account to fund the wall. Where that money will come from isn’t fully clear — and the list sent Monday doesn’t address the matter.