A million here, a billion there and soon money appears to build...

A million here, a billion there and soon money appears to build a border wall

Acting defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan talks with U.S. Army and National Guard troops near the US-Mexico border on Saturday (DoD photo)

WASHINGTON — The proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border could soon resemble the parade of bricks often seen on university campuses, walkways in a public park or a memorial wall — each brick or stone showing the name of one of many donors.

In the case of the Trump border wall, there could be an ICBM brick, an AWACS brick, a DARPA brick, a foreign language program brick, a counterdrug brick, an Afghan military training brick, a retirement fund brick and on and on and on.

Those are just some of the areas where Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has found $1.5 billion in money to send to support the construction of the wall.

More is likely to come, House and Senate members believe.

The so-called reprogramming of the money was made official on May 9 but details are just reaching Congress now as to what programs are being raided for the wall funding, with documents released by the Pentagon today and Monday.

The money comes from two areas, according to the Pentagon documents — $818.5 million from accounts that are part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations Act (the current fiscal year) and $681.5 million from two Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, meant to pay for war efforts, commonly referred to as a “slush fund.”

Specific areas where money is being shifted, according to Pentagon documents: $223.8 million from accounts planned for a new retirement system; $604 million for the Afghan Army, Air Force, Special Security Forces and National Police; $77.5 million from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), used to reimburse coalition partners for support to U.S. military operations; $251 million remaining in the 2018 account used to destroy chemical weapons; $24.3 million from the Air Force’s Minuteman III ICBM program, $52.6 million from air-launch cruise missiles and Predator Hellfire missiles; $57 million to upgrade the E-3 Sentry, an airborne early warning and control aircraft; $209.7 million designated for an Air Force space vehicle launch, and $251 from a program to destroy chemical agents and munitions.

The Pentagon justified the money and new announcements of wall construction on the grounds that is is part of counter-drug activities.

“DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has identified areas along the southern border of the United States that are being used by individuals, groups and transnational criminal organizations as drug smuggling corridors, and determined that the construction of additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border is necessary in order to impede and deny drug smuggling activities,” a Pentagon statement said.

The new money is in addition to the $1 billion the Pentagon shifted from counter-drug funding in March and $3.6 billion in military construction funds President Trump reprogrammed in February when he declared a national emergency.

Shanahan has not kept a pledge made to Congress to inform them of what projects and areas are atop the list for border wall money reprogramming. He had promised to let Congress know by May 10.

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