Pentagon mum as Trump targets military construction funds for wall

Pentagon mum as Trump targets military construction funds for wall

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Layers of concertina wire are added to existing barrier infrastructure along the U.S.-Mexico border near Nogales, Ariz., on Feb. 4. (Photo: Robert Bushell)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is not saying which military construction projects will take a hit to provide funding under President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

A prime target for some of the funds could be military construction projects approved in this fiscal year, 2019, that have not been started, congressional analysts said.

Congress approved $10.3 billion for military construction for fiscal year 2019, for domestic and international projects in 38 states and 14 overseas facilities. The White House looks to extract $3.5 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion from Pentagon counter-drug programs and $600 million from from Treasury forfeitures, according to published reports.

The total amount of unobligated military construction funds available is $21 billion.

It will be up to Pentagon officials to decide what projects will get shelved. They have been mum on which projects are most vulnerable.

“I’ll talk to you later about it,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the Military Times Friday, during a break at the Munich Security Conference.

The Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan arm of Congress, said in an earlier statement that attempts to use military funding to build a border wall are “likely to be mired in legal technicalities.”

For example, the law requires that money shifted from military construction and other defense coffers be used “to support such use of the armed forces.” That could provide an opening for a legal challenge over whether building border walls meets the threshold of a project that supports armed forces, one legal analyst told TMN.

White House officials also demurred on where they would try and shift the money. They told reporters the focus is on lower Pentagon priority initiatives and projects that would hinder “lethality,” according to published reports.

There are 28 national emergencies in effect. Some have lasted for decades, such as the national emergency declared by President Jimmy Carter during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

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