Faced with opposition from Democrats in Congress, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in February to get his wall built at the southern border, diverting billions in previously appropriated funds from other projects.
A large chunk of that change was slated to come from various Department of Defense (DoD) construction projects, and on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper informed Congress that he’s signed off on it.
Esper approved the transfer of roughly $3.6 billion for the construction of approximately 175 miles of the newly designed border barrier, Breitbart reported.
Stamp of approval
“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 wrote in a letter to Congress.
“These projects will deter illegal entry, increase the vanishing time of those illegally crossing the border, and channel migrants to ports of entry,” the Defense secretary added. “They will reduce the demand for DoD personnel and assets at the locations where the barriers are constructed and allow the redeployment of DoD personnel and assets to other high-traffic areas on the border without barriers.”
All of the funds come from already deferred military construction projects that have been deemed low priorities, according to Esper, who noted that care was taken to ensure none of the diverted funds had been slated for family housing, dormitories, or barracks.
Democrats cry foul
Still, Esper’s move prompted a predictable backlash from Democrats, who, as usual, ignored the actual facts of the matter and appealed to emotion in response to the diverted funds. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused the Trump administration of attempting to “cannibalize” the Defense budget for a vanity project, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the diverted funds would “undermine our national security and the quality of life [and] morale” for military service members and their families.
Pelosi also vowed to fight the move in the courts, but there is one problem with her plan: the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a related case in July that President Trump has the congressionally-delegated authority to shift previously appropriated funds to priority national security projects, such as the improved border wall.
Indeed, a court fight was already waged over roughly $2.5 billion that had been diverted to 100 miles of the new wall from the Pentagon’s counter-narcotics program, a move upheld 5-4 by the Supreme Court.
Build that wall!
With the green-light from Esper, the Pentagon expects construction on the new projects to begin as soon as 135 days from now — and that’s good news for both Trump and the military.
The director of operations for the military’s Joint Staff, Army Lt. Gen. Andrew Poppas, suggested that the completion of these new sections of wall will free up roughly 7,500 National Guard troops who have been deployed to the border. While Poppas didn’t speculate on a timeline for the move, he noted that troops could then either be reassigned to other areas still in need of assistance or even sent home.
It looks like President Trump is finally getting his oft-promised border wall built. While it has taken some time to get all of the pieces in place, the project is finally getting off the ground.