These Are The Military Projects Losing Funding To Trump's Border Wall

Sep 4, 2019
Originally published on September 4, 2019 6:05 pm

Updated at 9:00 p.m. ET

The Pentagon revealed on Wednesday the full list of $3.6 billion in military construction projects that will get shelved to help build a wall along the U.S.- Mexico border, according to documents obtained by NPR.

Lawmakers from Virginia to Arizona learned their states will lose millions in military construction projects as part of the plan.

Virginia Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner slammed the move, saying their state alone will lose more than $77 million in planned construction projects. In all, four military projects will be impacted in Virginia.

"I'm deeply concerned about President Trump's plan to pull funding from critical national security projects — including millions of dollars from important projects in Virginia — so he can build his border wall," Kaine said. "The well-being of American troops is the core responsibility of every commander in the military, yet the commander in chief is shirking that duty so he can advance his own political agenda."

The comments come a day after the Pentagon began calling congressional leaders to alert them of the overall plans to begin canceling $3.6 billion in military construction projects to fund new wall construction along the southwest border.

In a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., Defense Secretary Mark Esper detailed 11 projects that would be completed with the diverted funds. They include new pedestrian fencing and barriers in San Diego, replacement of vehicle barriers in El Paso, Texas, and new fencing at the border in Yuma, Ariz.

Esper cites the national emergency Trump declared in February that required the use of armed forces for projects along the southwest border.

"Based on analysis and advice from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and input from the Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of the Interior and pursuant to the authority granted to me in Section 2808, I have determined that 11 military construction projects along the international border with Mexico, with an estimated total cost of $3.6 billion, are necessary to support the use of the armed forces in connection with the national emergency," Esper states.

According to a list of the projects, which NPR obtained through a congressional aide, about half are overseas. The domestic projects span Democratic and Republican districts.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., learned Tuesday that the U.S. Military Academy at West Point will lose funds.

In Virginia, the state's Cyber Operations Facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis will lose $10 million, Navy Ships Maintenance Facility in Portsmouth will lose more than $26 million and projects to replace hazardous materials warehouses in Norfolk and Portsmouth will lose $41 million.

"The decision by the President to divert funding meant to support U.S. national security interests so that he can build a border wall only makes us less safe," Warner said in a written statement. "Taking money away from our military — including funding to support critical projects here in Virginia — will mean we are less equipped to tackle threats here at home and abroad."

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who is facing a tough reelection bid in 2020, said a project involving a ground transport equipment building at Fort Huachuca will lose $30 million in project funds.

In a statement, McSally downplayed the loss, saying it is a small fraction of the overall $3.6 billion and needed for national security. Also, the money can be backfilled by a provision in the proposed Senate version of the defense bill that aims to backfill the $3.6 billion through the fiscal year 2020 budget.

However, that same provision isn't in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act. Both chambers are slated to negotiate a final version of the NDAA in the coming months.

"We need to secure our border and protect our military; we can and should do both," McSally said. "This one project at Fort Huachuca was already delayed because of ongoing environmental cleanup that is taking longer than expected."

Arizona is one of the states slated to get new funding related to wall construction projects.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We learned today exactly which military construction projects would be canceled to pay for a border wall. Now this move has been expected since earlier this year when President Trump declared a national emergency to free up funds for a wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico. Congressional Democrats are fuming.

NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been following all this. She's here in the studio now.

Hi.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi. Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Glad to have you here. So I'm trying to follow these budget lines. Remind me whose money this is and under whose authority it's being diverted.

GRISALES: Well, this goes back to February when President Trump declared a national emergency to take $8 billion from existing budgets at agencies like the Pentagon. Of that, $3.6 billion would come from canceled military construction projects. And for months, it's been a well-kept secret who would lose out. And this week, the Pentagon started revealing details to lawmakers. Here's Defense Secretary Mark Esper defending the move.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARK ESPER: And so that process is ongoing today. We will be reaching out to affected lawmakers and - to apprise them before we make anything public.

KELLY: All right, so, Claudia, make it public. What are the details here? What's being cut?

GRISALES: Well, the Pentagon finally released the full list of specific projects that will get shelved. They released the list to lawmakers, and we obtained it from a congressional aide. And it shows that half - $1.8 billion - will come from the U.S. and the other half from overseas installations.

At the Military Academy at West Point, they will lose $160 million alone in projects for their engineering center and a parking structure. I talked to the Democratic lawmaker who represents that district, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney. Here's what he had to say.

SEAN PATRICK MALONEY: As you know, this was just sprung on the American people and on the military. And it has an implication. That's what I'm trying to say. There is a tradeoff that the president is going to push on to the military, and it's not the one they want.

GRISALES: And his district is not alone. And lawmakers like Maloney are furious because the wall is part of Trump's campaign promise, but he also said Mexico would be paying for the wall.

KELLY: Right.

GRISALES: And West Point isn't alone. The Pentagon has listed cuts for $77 million in Virginia. And Arizona will lose a $30 million project. And there's dozens more around the country on the list. And while Democrats are saying these cuts put military readiness at risk, one Republican senator in Arizona, Martha McSally, downplayed the impact for her state. She's in a tough reelection fight, and she's backing the need for resources for a border wall.

KELLY: What is the Pentagon saying? Are they weighing in with any kind of comment about having to shift money away from projects that they had planned?

GRISALES: Right. They have said repeatedly in testimony and in interviews that they're following the president's orders. He has the authority to declare a national emergency. He did. And they're following through.

In a letter to lawmakers, Esper said the plans will fund 11 border projects in California, Texas and Arizona. And there's already court challenges underway to challenge the president's authority to shift this money that Congress already allocated. And come next week, Congress returns from an extended recess to work out the details of spending bills for various federal agencies. And while they have this broad budget deal in line, there's a fight for border wall money that could become a very contentious issue.

KELLY: Yet more debate in Congress over the border wall and who exactly is going to pay for it. That's NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Thank you.

GRISALES: Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALT-J SONG, "3WW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.