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Pentagon to Divert Another $3.8 Billion to Pay for Trump’s Border Wall

Michael Rainey

The Trump administration plans to use billions of dollars intended to purchase combat equipment – including F-35 stealth jets, transport aircraft and an amphibious assault ship – to fund construction of the border wall with Mexico.

The Pentagon notified lawmakers Thursday that it intends to reprogram $3.8 billion in appropriated funds from its 2020 budget, including $2.2 billion from its base budget and $1.6 billion from the overseas contingency operations account.

This marks the first time the Trump administration has sought to shift funds away from equipment procurement for use on the border. Last year, the Pentagon reprogrammed more than $6 billion from military construction and drug interdiction funds, but none of that money had been appropriated specifically for combat equipment.

The latest transfer will bring the total of Pentagon funds used for the border wall in the last year to about $10 billion, according to Politico.

Some details: The money will be moved from procurement accounts to the drug interdiction accounts the Pentagon tapped last year for border projects. The equipment cuts include:

  • Two Marine Corps F-35B fighters ($223 million)
  • Two Air Force C-130J transport aircraft ($196 million)
  • The Air Force’s light attack aircraft program ($180 million)
  • The Army National Guard's Humvee modernization program ($100 million)
  • The Navy’s amphibious assault ship replacement program ($650 million)
  • The Navy Expeditionary Fast Transport ship program ($261 million).

Lawmakers protest: House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-IN) released a statement expressing their opposition to the move: “President Trump is once again disrespecting the separation of powers and endangering our security by raiding military resources to pay for his wasteful border wall. The Constitution gives Congress, not the President, the power of the purse. Congress rejected President Trump’s full request for wall funding, which is why he is now orchestrating this backdoor mechanism to prop up a political vanity project.”

Republican Mac Thornberry of Texas, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also expressed disapproval, saying the plan runs "contrary to Congress's constitutional authority." Other Republican lawmakers likely have concerns as well, Defense News said, since many of the items targeted by the Pentagon were specifically added by Congress to the 2020 defense appropriations bill, including equipment manufactured in districts represented by lawmakers from both parties.

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