The Pentagon plans to divert $3.8 billion in military funding to pay for the construction of hundreds of more miles of the southern border wall, according to a notice sent to Congress on Thursday.
The Department of Defense “reprogramming” notice says it plans to pull $2.2 billion from an account that funds counterdrug activities and another $1.6 billion from a war account known as the Overseas Contingency Operations fund.
The transfer of funds would have an impact on the purchase of new aircraft, vehicles and weapons — including Navy V-22 Osprey aircraft and parts for an Air Force reaper drone and F-35 planes, the notice says.
“DHS 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,” the notice says.
The move would mark the second year in a row the Trump administration has shifted money from the Pentagon to build additional sections of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The notice drew a bipartisan backlash.
In a statement, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on readiness, blasted the move.
“It’s grossly irresponsible of President Trump to raid money that is necessary to support and defend our nation for his vanity wall,” Garamendi said.
“President Trump has already raided over $6 billion in critical defense funds to pay for his wall — this new raid worsens the already dangerous problems he’s created for our military and national security. Funding the President’s vanity wall in this manner depletes vital resources that maintain our military’s readiness to respond to any threats at home and abroad.”
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the plan to reallocate money already approved to pay for military weapons and equipment is “contrary to Congress’s constitutional authority.”
“To be clear, I continue to believe that the situation on our southern border represents a national security challenge for our country — one that has been exacerbated by partisan politics in Washington,” Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said. “The wall should be funded, but the funding must come through the Department of Homeland Security rather than diverting critical military resources that are needed and in law.”
A congressional staffer said Democratic members plan to introduce legislation to prevent more military funds from being diverted to the border wall.
The Trump administration has so far completed about 104 miles of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Bob Salesses, a senior Defense Department official, said the shift in funds will not affect military preparedness.
“The transfer of funds is based on what the law allows and the items to be funded are a higher priority than the items for which the funds were transferred,” Salesses said.