Pentagon scours military construction budget in anticipation of White House order

Pentagon scours military construction budget in anticipation of White House order

As part of infrastructure reinforcement under Operation Secure Line, members of the U.S. Army 104th Engineer Construction Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade install concertina wire on the border wall east of the Port of Nogales, AZ, Deconcini Crossing, on November 28, 2018 (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Public Affairs)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is sorting through its various service branch accounts to determine what military construction projects are underway and how much of the budget they have consumed — and what cash is available to be used for a border wall.

Congress appropriated $10.4 billion in military construction money for fiscal year 2019, the current fiscal year that started on Oct. 1, 2018. That was $1 billion less than the Pentagon had requested.

Pentagon officials told TMN Tuesday that they are scrambling to get firm numbers on what has been spent and what remains unspent. They also said, on background, that Congress could have the power to “reappropriate” some money from past years that was earmarked for projects that have not been completed — and thus the money technically remains sitting in the U.S. Treasury.

Ironically, one of those projects waiting for money is enhancements on the U.S.-Mexico border at the Barry Goldwater test range in Arizona, an Air Force facility. That $450 million project has not been funded and is going through environmental studies and other preliminary work.

The 2019 military construction budget, which is separate from the overall defense budget, funds 147 projects in the U.S. and abroad.

Much of the military construction requests focus on base enhancements, including child-care and wellness centers and steps to safeguard bases from climate change. About $1.6 billion in the budget is for the construction, operation and maintenance of military family housing.

It also has an emphasis on airfield construction, mostly overseas, command centers in Estonia and elsewhere, and planning and installation of facilities for the Defense Logistics Agency and U.S. Special Operations Command at unspecified “various” locations.

That includes $193.4 million to fund the top six unfunded requirements of programs for energy resilience and $100 million in additional funds for various military construction accounts for enhancing force protection and safety at military installations, according to budget documents.

If the military does not have the money, some wall advocates are looking at funding pockets at such places as the Endowment for the Arts. The suggestion is to create a barrier with different materials as a work of art, officials said.

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