The Pentagon said this week it will pull funding from 127 Defense Department projects, including daycare centers and schools for military families, to divert $3.6 billion to fund President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall.
Schools for servicemen and women all over the world will be affected and projects in 23 states, 19 countries and three U.S. territories will be delayed or killed outright. According to a list released this week by the Pentagon, about $1.1 billion in cuts will affect the continental U.S., about $700 million will come from projects in territories like Puerto Rico and another $1.8 billion will come from projects on overseas bases.
Trump declared a national emergency on Feb. 16 in order to bypass Congress and divert money to build the border wall, his signature campaign promise, setting up a fight with Congress, which the Constitution says has sole authority to appropriate taxpayer funds.
Many of the projects facing cuts or termination are less urgent, such as new parking at West Point and a number of small arms target ranges at bases in Wisconsin and Oklahoma. However, a “cyber ops facility” in Hampton, Virginia, and a new missile defense field in Alaska also are on the chopping block.
All of the new wall that’s been built so far was replacement of old fencing, but the diverted $3.6 billion will allow for about 115 miles of new fencing to be built where there isn’t any now. Trump has reportedly been adamant in getting sections of new wall built before the election to appease his base.
“The wall is being built. It’s going up rapidly,” Trump said Wednesday. “And we think by the end of next year, which will be sometime right after the election actually, but we think we’re going to have close to 500 miles of wall, which will be complete.”
House Democrats say they won’t re-fund projects affected by the fund diversion.
“President Trump is about to weaken our national security by stealing billions of dollars from our military,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who chairs a key military construction panel. “The House of Representatives will not backfill any projects he steals from today.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed to fight the fund diversion in court.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is losing a $63 million middle school at Fort Campbell. McConnell’s spokesman blamed Democrats in a statement Wednesday to Louisville Courier Journal reporter Joe Sonka.
“Senator McConnell recently talked to (Defense) Secretary Esper regarding the issue and is committed to protecting funding for the Ft. Campbell Middle School project. Regrettably, Democrat opposition to secure our borders has now led to the potential delay of certain Military Construction projects. We would not be in this situation if Democrats were serious about protecting our homeland and worked with us to provide the funding needed to secure our borders during appropriations process.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.