The Pentagon is transferring $1.5 billion in cash originally focused for help of the Afghan protection forces and other tasks to assist pay for development of 80 miles of wall at the U.S.-Mexican border, officers stated Friday.
Congress was being notified of the move, which follows the Pentagon’s decision in March to transfer $1 billion from Army personnel budget accounts to support wall construction. Some lawmakers have been highly critical of the Pentagon shifting money not originally authorized for border security.
The combined total of $2.5 billion is in response to President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the border, where Customs and Border Protection personnel are struggling to cope with increasing numbers of Central American families attempting to gain entry. Trump vetoed Congress’ attempt to reverse his emergency declaration.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who has said he plans to visit the border on Saturday, said in announcing the shift of funds that the Pentagon is “fully engaged” in fixing the border crisis. He said more than 4,000 troops and 19 aircraft are supporting Customs and Border Protection personnel.
“Today, I authorized the transfer of $1.5 billion toward the construction of more than 80 miles of border barrier,” he said. “The funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes, and revised requirements, and therefore will have minimal impact on force readiness.”
Some in Congress, however, are opposed to the use of Pentagon funds to build the wall.
“The Pentagon has now reprogrammed 12 times more money to the wall than for repairs for Tyndall AFB, destroyed by Hurricane Michael. We should put troops first!” Sen. Richard Durbin wrote on Twitter. He was referring to storm damage at the Air Force base in Florida where almost every building was damaged.
To piece together the $1.5 billion for additional wall construction, the Pentagon is shifting funds from several programs where it says it found savings.
Removing the $604 million means the Afghan Security Forces Fund in the current Defense Department budget is reduced from the $4.9 billion approved by Congress.
Another $251 million was shifted from a years-long project to destroy lethal chemical agents and chemical munitions in order to comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention. Another $344 million is being taken from a group of Air Force programs, where the Pentagon identified contract savings, and $224 million from savings related to a military retirement system, the officials said.
The Pentagon also is taking $78 million from the Coalition Support Fund, which is money used to reimburse coalition partners – mainly Pakistan – for logistical and military support for American military operations.
The Pentagon additionally is expected at some factor to transfer up to $3.6 billion from military developmentbudgets to pay for wall construction. The details of these plans have not yet been announced.