Pentagon to shift money for fighter planes, ships toward border wall


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Pentagon to shift money for fighter planes, ships toward border wall

People walk on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border barrier in Tijuana, Mexico.

The Trump administration plans to sap money intended to build fighter jets, ships, drones and National Guard equipment in order to fund barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Pentagon told Congress on Thursday, a move certain to agitate Democrats headed into a new budget and spending cycle.

The surprise reprogramming of another $3.8 billion, transmitted to Congress and provided to POLITICO, means the Pentagon will have forked over nearly $10 billion since last year to help pay for President Donald Trump's border wall.

But this shift in funding marks a new phase for the administration, which until now had used money set for military construction and counterdrug operations and not combat equipment. The fiscal 2020 money will be moved into drug interdiction accounts that the Pentagon tapped last year to fund border barrier projects.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, said the move doesnt make sense, given the amount of money already flowing to the wall and the presidents request for just $2 billion next fiscal year.

“Theyre flush with money,” she said on Thursday. “They have plenty of money, which they havent used.”

Trumps fiscal 2021 budget request for $2 billion comes on top of nearly $1.4 billion that congressional leaders agreed to provide this fiscal year, and its far less than the $8.6 billion that he sought last year.

Ahead of Trumps budget release on Monday, administration officials noted that about $8.4 billion in Homeland Security and Defense Department funding is already flowing toward a border barrier.

“This request is based on whats required to gain operational control of the border,” a senior administration official told POLITICO on Sunday. “Since taking office, President Trump has prioritized funding for a border wall. With funding available, the administration will build up to approximately 1,000 miles of border wall along the southwest border.“

Trump will keep shuffling money toward the wall unless Congress adds spending bill language that prohibits him from doing so, Roybal-Allard said.

Congress has so far failed to attach any prohibitive language since Trump declared a national emergency last February, successfully diverting $6.7 billion from military construction and other accounts for a southern barrier.

The Washington Post reported last month that Trump plans to shift an extra $7.2 billion this year from the military toward border wall construction. Of that, $3.7 billion would come from military construction projects and $3.5 billion would be taken via the counterdrug account.

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on Thursday said the transfer would likely reignite a fight over border wall money on Capitol Hill, but noted Trump has an advantage if Republicans don't break ranks.

"Were going to scream about it. Were going to complain about it. Were going to try to stop it anyway we can," Smith told POLITICO. "But at the end of the day, unless Republicans in Congress support us, then we wont be able to get it done.”

“Were going to fight that fight. The president obviously has the upper hand as we saw in 2019," he said.

By: POLITICO

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