The Pentagon announced Monday night that it has authorized the transfer of up to $1 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers to build additional barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move that drew sharp objections from Democratic lawmakers.
The shift in funds, which the Pentagon justified under President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border, will facilitate the construction of 57 miles of “pedestrian fencing,” road construction and lighting along stretches of the border in Arizona and Texas.
Ten senators, including Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, objected to the move, saying in a letter that the Pentagon had not sought approval of congressional defense committees.
“As a result, we have serious concerns that the Department has allowed political interference and pet projects to come ahead of many near-term, critical readiness issues facing our military,” said the letter to acting secretary of defense Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “The $1 billion reprogramming that the Department is implementing without congressional approval constitutes a dollar-for-dollar theft from other readiness needs of our Armed Forces.”
Although the clash highlighted ongoing tensions between the Trump administration and Democrats in Congress, the move was in keeping with what the administration has pledged to try to make good on Trump’s marquee promise of a border wall.
Earlier this month, Trump vetoed a measure passed by both the House and Senate to nullify his declaration of a national emergency at the border. Trump is using the measure to spend more on border barrier funding than Congress has authorized.
The $1 billion outlay announced Monday night would help “block drug-smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of Federal law enforcement agencies,” the Pentagon said.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · John Wagner, Erica Werner