Washington: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday forwarded to Congress the list of construction projects the Pentagon could delay to pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall.
The projects range across the country and around the world, from an air traffic control tower in Alabama to fuel tanks in Australia, according to the 21-page document.
“Decisions have not yet been made concerning which border barrier projects will be funded” under the president’s authority, according to the Pentagon memo attached to the list.
Democrats pounced on the list and Trump’s emergency declaration as a political stunt.
“What President Trump is doing is a slap in the face to our military that makes our border and the country less secure,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. “He is planning to take funds from real, effective operational priorities and needed projects and divert them to his vanity wall. That may help shore up his political base, but it could come at the expense of our military bases and the men and women of our Armed Forces who rely on them.”
On the House side, Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, said Congress had been seeking the list for weeks and found little in its release to clarify what projects could be targeted.
“Today’s submission is just a list that tells Congress what military construction projects it already approved, and is nothing more than another stall tactic designed to delay the political consequences of President Trump’s emergency declaration,” Hollander said.
Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build the wall allows him to tap billions in military construction projects such as garages and air traffic control towers. The projects have been approved by Congress but contracts have not yet been signed for them. They would delayed, not canceled, according to the Pentagon.
The Pentagon’s list contains projects that require funding after September, putting them into the 2020 fiscal year. Not all of the projects listed would be used to fund the wall, according to a memo attached to the list. The Air Force, Army, Navy and National Guard list potential projects that could be affected, touching states from Maine to Hawaii.
The Navy, including the Marine Corps, has the most expensive list of projects at $2.3 billion. The Air Force has $1.4 billion in projects that could be delayed, followed by the Army at $1 billion. Bases shared by all the services and other defense agencies had exposure of $1.5 billion.
The House and Senate have approved resolutions opposing Trump’s emergency declaration. But he vetoed the measure last week, and there are not enough votes to overturn it. Now the plan faces lawsuits and the courts will get a say.
Senators grilled Shahanan last week about the list of projects that could be delayed and accused him of acting in bad faith when he did not produce a list. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., accused Trump of planning to “ransack the Pentagon budget” for more than $6 billion. He blasted Shanahan for failing to act in good faith with the Senate.