Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has authorized $3.6 billion in funding for military construction projects to be reallocated toward construction of the border wall on the U.S. southern border.
The new construction funds will reportedly be used for 175 miles of border wall. Currently, walls and fencing cover about 654 miles of the 2,000-mile border, according to the Government Accountability Office.
“Based on analysis and advice from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and input from the Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of the Interior and pursuant to the authority granted to me in Section 2808, I have determined that 11 military construction projects, along the international border with Mexico, with an estimated total cost of $3.6 billion, are necessary to support the use of the armed forces in connection with the national emergency,” Esper wrote in a letter addressed to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe.
“These projects will deter illegal entry, increase the vanishing time of those illegally crossing the border, and channel migrants to ports of entry,” Esper said.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman called the Defense Department’s support to the Department of Homeland Security for border security “a historic mission” and said that the use of troops at the border is “necessary and appropriate.”
Hoffman said the 127 projects impacted by the reallocation of funds do not include family housing, barracks, or dormitory projects, projects already awarded, or projects expected to have fiscal year 2019 award dates.
Democrats immediately condemned the move.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: “It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country that @realDonaldTrump is willing to cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego, and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added in a statement that the House will fight what she said was an “unacceptable and deeply dangerous decision.”
The Supreme Court ruled in July that Trump could use billions in military funding for border wall construction. Those funds are separate from the reallocation announced by Esper.
The court’s five conservative justices lifted an injunction against border wall spending that had been imposed by a federal district court judge in California and affirmed by a federal appeals court. The injunction had blocked the use of military funds for the wall as a lawsuit challenging it remained pending at the appeals court.
The five-member Supreme Court majority said in a brief order that the challengers “have no cause of action” to review the Defense Department’s authority to move up to $4 billion between accounts.