Washington – The Pentagon on Thursday took billions of dollars off the financing of 17 aircraft for the Navy and the Air Force and other military programs to free up resources for the construction of the wall of the US border with Mexico, which angered not only the Democrats but also the Republicans who often advocate defense spending.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to rechannel $ 3.8 billion to the border wall, and the Pentagon acknowledged that there could be more cuts in order to have more funds available for President Donald Trump’s main campaign commitment .
Thursday’s decision has intensified the sharp divisions between Trump and members of Congress who oppose the use of military resources for the construction of the wall. Trump has repeatedly said that his “big and beautiful wall” is being paid by Mexico, although this has never been the case.RELATED
The Pentagon’s decision, announced in “reprogramming” documents handed over to lawmakers, takes money from aircraft and procurement programs that affect Republican and Democratic districts and states. The measure has been censored in a bipartisan manner, including by the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Armed Services Commission of the House of Representatives.
“Today’s rescheduling request confirms once again that the president is obsessed with fulfilling a campaign commitment at the expense of our national security,” said the president of the commission, Democratic representative Adam Smith of Washington. “This government has already stolen billions of dollars from the Department of Defense to begin building the wall of the president’s vanity, and today they are back to a bad policy.”
The representative of Texas, Mack Thornberry, the main Republican in the commission, said that Congress has the constitutional authority to determine how resources destined for defense are spent and that “today’s rescheduling is contrary to the constitutional authority of Congress” .
Despite the rejection in Congress, Trump faced no consequences for similar transfers he made last year when the Pentagon canceled dozens of military construction projects to release $ 3.6 billion and transferred $ 2.5 billion of money for the war on drugs.
Together, Trump has obtained just over $ 3 billion for the construction of border barriers through ordinary legislative means and what they grant is subject to restrictions imposed by lawmakers. And Trump has used various transfer and emergency authorities to channel almost $ 7 billion more from the emergency declaration, a fund of money seized by the police and resources for anti-narcotics military activities.
Bob Salesses, deputy secretary of defense, told reporters on Thursday that with the most recent plan, 30-meter (9-meter) fences will be built on federal land in six border areas: San Diego and El Centro, California; Yuma and Tucson, Arizona, and El Paso and Del Rio, Texas. Salesses said that the Department of Defense concluded after a review that all sectors are “high-intensity narcotics trafficking zones” and said that resources taken from military operations and maintenance accounts will be transferred to the anti-drug trafficking fund for from there they go to barriers, roads and lighting.
The Department of Homeland Security asked the Pentagon last month to finance the construction of 271 miles of border wall at a cost of about $ 5.5 billion, as part of an anti-narcotics action. Esper approved a portion of that amount.
When asked if more resources will be taken away from defense this year, Salesses said there are discussions within the department but nothing has been decided yet. He acknowledged that more military construction projects could be canceled this year in order to have money for the wall.
Last year, the Pentagon removed funding for projects such as schools, shooting ranges and maintenance facilities in 23 states, 19 countries and three US territories. This procedure, which affected numerous projects in districts and republican states, caused anger in the Capitol.
The president of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democratic leader of the Senate, Chuck Schummer, said in a statement that, with the taking of those resources, Trump has broken another promise to the members of the armed forces. “This most recent attempt to rob the armed forces of funding allocated by Congress undermines our national security and the separation of powers enshrined in our constitution,” they said.
Specifically, the plan affects money destined for two F-35 fighters as requested by Kay Granger, the principal Republican in the Committee on Budget Allocations of the US House of Representatives, and other members of the Texas delegation. It also removes resources for eight Reaper drones, four C-130 Air Force transport aircraft, two V-22 Osprey helicopters and amphibious ships, National Guard equipment and army trucks.
Lawmakers have endorsed many of the programs because of the jobs they create in their districts and states. For example, the recanalization of resources affects an amphibious assault ship built in Mississippi and a Fast Expeditionary Transport ship that is manufactured in Alabama, a state represented by Republican Senator Richard Shelby, president of the Committee on Budgetary Allocations.
“This is an article of special interest to legislators,” according to Pentagon documents, referring to the parties that will be affected by resource reductions.
Trump took the measure less than two months after he promulgated a huge allocation package and a few days after the government submitted its budget for fiscal year 2021. The budget includes a request of $ 2 billion for the wall, a lot smaller than Trump asked last year, which reflects that the president has more resources available that he can immediately channel to that infrastructure.