Pentagon continues search for money that could be used for border wall

Pentagon continues search for money that could be used for border wall

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David Norquist, then comptroller of the Pentagon, testifies on the Pentagon budget last year to the Senate Armed Services Committee. (DoD photo)

WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials expect a declaration of a national emergency from President Donald Trump to be forthcoming and are scrambling to collect and verify the amount of money potentially available to be diverted for construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Speaking on background, Pentagon officials told TMN Thursday that they are prepared for a presidential declaration as early as Thursday night. They have yet to determine how much money is available in unobligated fiscal 2019 budget funds — as well as any unused funds from previous years.

The two tracks of money would represent different challenges for the Pentagon.

Shifting money from the current fiscal year would likely mean projects not completed or started would be stopped, shifting those funds to wall construction. Some Pentagon officials have estimated that amount is around $3 billion.

The status of money not spent in previous years — estimated in one Pentagon financial report as being $27.7 billion from fiscal years 2013 through 2018 for military construction and all other defense funding — would be subject to different criteria, officials said. It was unclear in the Defense Department Agency Financial Report, released Wednesday, how much of that was unspent military construction money.

Much of the unspent money in previous years results from the Pentagon receiving funding late in the fiscal year, because of the failure of Congress to pass stand-alone budgets for the Defense Department and military construction. Since money is not permitted to be carried over into the next fiscal year, it goes back to the Treasury.

Trump has said he will use military construction money to build the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Congress approved $10.4 billion in military construction money for fiscal year 2019, the current fiscal year that stated on Oct. 1, 2018. That was $1 billion less than the Pentagon had requested.

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

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