Border Wall

A rugged uphill section of the international border wall that runs through Organ Pipe National Monument in Lukeville, Arizona. — AP Photo/Matt York

The Pentagon’s announcement that it will divert $3.6 billion in military construction funds to help fund President Donald Trump’s border wall has sparked bipartisan anger from lawmakers who learned Wednesday that their states will be impacted by the decision.

Domestically, just under $1.8 billion is being shifted away from projects in 23 states and three U.S. territories.

Additionally, the Pentagon will defer more than $1.8 billion in military construction projects overseas to free up over $3.6 billion in funds for 11 wall projects on the southern border with Mexico, according to a complete list obtained by CNN Wednesday.

In total, 127 domestic and overseas projects are being put on hold to help fund the wall that Trump initially promised would be paid for by Mexico.

Among the sites affected are facilities used to store hazardous waste, repair Navy ships and conduct cyber operations, that had been identified as being in need of repair or additional construction.

Puerto Rico was among the hardest hit of all U.S. states and territories as it will see more than $400 million in funding for planned military construction projects diverted to the wall under the Pentagon’s plan.

Trump has consistently sparred with Puerto Rican officials while he’s been in office following 2017’s Hurricane Maria.

“Most of the projects in Puerto Rico were a result of Hurricane Maria,” a senior U.S. defense official told CNN.

“We’ve got a rebuild effort that we have ongoing here and I mentioned these projects aren’t scheduled to award for more than a year. These are projects that we have on the list something we can use now and backfill, we’ve got time to do that.”

Overseas, $771 million in projects at various locations in Europe will be impacted. These projects, including airfield upgrades and staging areas in Eastern Europe, are meant to improve the defense of U.S. allies from Russian threats.

Defense officials said Wednesday that there is no guarantee any of the money will be replaced for domestic or overseas projects. On Tuesday, chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said the Defense Department will not be seeking congressional funds to backfill the reprogrammed funding for overseas projects.

The Pentagon notified individual lawmakers from states that will be impacted Wednesday, sparking bipartisan criticism.

Utah’s Republican senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, expressed their concerns in a joint statement after learning military construction funds for projects at Hill Air Force Base would be reprogrammed.

Specifically, they were told that $26 million was being diverted from Hill AFB Composite Aircraft Antenna Calibration Facility and another $28 million from the Utah Test and Training Range Consolidated Mission Control Center.

“In April, Senator Lee and I expressed our significant concerns to the Secretary of Defense regarding the potential diversion of funds for critical military construction projects in Utah,” Romney said. “I’m disappointed that despite those concerns, two key military construction projects totaling $54 million will be delayed as a result of the February 2019 emergency declaration.

“Congress has been ceding far too much powers to the executive branch for decades and it is far past time for Congress to restore the proper balance of power between the three branches,” Lee said. “We should start that process by passing the ARTICLE ONE Act, which would correct the imbalances caused by the National Emergencies Act,” Lee added.

Virginia’s Democratic senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, said Wednesday that the Pentagon informed them of four military construction projects in their state that will lose a more than $77 million in funds due to the Pentagon’s decision to divert that money toward building President Donald Trump’s border wall.

“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 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.”

“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. 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,” Kaine added. — (CNN)

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