On Friday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan confirmed that the Pentagon has authorized an additional $1.5 billion to extend the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border 80 more miles.
Shanahan stated, according to Stars and Stripes: “The Department of Defense is fully engaged in addressing the crisis on our southwest border, with more than 4,000 servicemembers and 19 aircraft currently supporting the Department of Homeland Security. Today, I authorized the transfer of $1.5 billion toward the construction of more than 80 miles of border barrier. 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.”
The additional $1.5 billion comes after the transfer of $1 billion for an additional 60 miles of wall in Yuma, Arizona and El Paso, Texas, that was made in March.
Fox News reports, “But the plan to divert Pentagon funding has sparked criticism from congressional Democrats, who accused Shanahan of not seeking approval to ‘reprogram’ the funds without congressional authority. Shanahan and other senior defense officials claimed in response they did not have to get permission from Congress despite the objections from Democratic lawmakers.”
The funds being transferred come from the Afghan Security Forces Fund, which describes itself as providing “assistance to the security forces of Afghanistan to include the provision of equipment, supplies, services, training, facility and infrastructure repair, renovation and construction, and funding.”
AP reported in late February that Shanahan visited the southern border and asserted, “How do we get out of treating the symptoms and get at the root of the issue? I don’t want to just add resources and not fix the problem.” AP wrote, “Shanahan said he was not volunteering the Pentagon to take over any part of border control, which is the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security. But he said his visit led him to question whether there should be a ‘wholesale redesign’ of the way border control is done by the federal government.”
The Hill reported on Friday that Democrats would fight against transferring money for the wall:
The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would prohibit using military construction funds on a border wall. The prohibition, included in the fiscal 2020 military construction and veterans affairs appropriations bill, would prohibit funds from the 2015 through 2020 fiscal years from being “obligated, expended or used to design, construct, or carry out a project to construct a wall, barrier, fence, or road” along the U.S. southern border. And House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told Shanahan during a panel hearing in March that the Pentagon would likely lose the reprogramming authority if it moved forward with the $1 billion funding transfer.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) added, “Funds for the wall should not be stolen from previously approved vital military construction projects that are a higher priority than any wall … Military construction dollars should be used only for the purpose they are provided, which is to support the Department of Defense’ mission, service members and their families.”