WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has begun the process of transferring defense dollars to support repairs, upgrades and construction of President Donald Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, Pentagon officials confirmed on Wednesday.
The first two contracts total $976 million. One contract is for “border replacement wall construction” in Santa Teresa, N.M., the second for “primary pedestrian wall replacement” in Yuma, Ariz., Pentagon officials said.
“In response to an April 5th request from DHS (Department of Homeland Security), the Acting Secretary of Defense has modified the specifications for the approved construction as follows: for the Yuma Sector Project 1 and the El Paso Sector Project 1 will be undertaken with 30 foot bollard fencing and a 5 foot anti-climb plate, and Yuma Sector Project 2 will be undertaken with 18 foot bollard fencing and a 5 foot anti-climb plate. The construction and improvement of roads and installation of lighting requirements are unchanged,” Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, told TMN on Wednesday.
The contracts were signed Tuesday night, the Pentagon said. Money for them comes from the Pentagon’s counter-narcotics fund, a shifting permitted to the Defense Department under prior rules. Such “reprogramming” can occur without congressional approval or declaration of a national emergency.
However, prior to the awarding of the contracts, the Pentagon first quietly moved money from unspent military personnel accounts and flowed it into the counter-narcotics fund, officials said.
In February, the House and Senate voted to block the national emergency declaration the president issued. Trump vetoed that legislation and the House did not muster enough votes for a veto override.
The Pentagon has approved nine DHS requests since border operations began in the spring of 2018. There are roughly 5,200 active and National Guard forces at the U.S.-Mexico border, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
The Pentagon has spent $292 million on the deployment, according to a seven-page Defense Department letter sent Tuesday to Rep. Anthony Brown, (D-Md.) and obtained by Time magazine. The letter “states the estimated cost of Pentagon support is at least $431 million through this fiscal year,” Time reported.