With the Trump administration planning to move defense funds to build a wall to help control illegal immigration at the southern border, a Florida congresswoman holding a key post on Capitol Hill is pushing back.
This week, the Trump administration announced it would move $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build the wall.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, on the matter this week.
“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 detem1ined that 11 military constn1ction 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. “These projects will deter illegal entry, increase the vanishing time of those illegally crossing the border, and channel migrants to ports of entry. They will reduce the demand for DoD personnel and assets at the locations where the barriers are constructed and allow the redeployment of DoD personnel and assets to other high-traffic areas on the border without barriers. In short, these barriers will allow DoD to provide support to OHS more efficiently and effectively. In this respect. the contemplated construction projects are force multipliers.
“Accordingly, I have authorized and directed the Acting Secretary of the Army to undertake these 11 projects expeditiously, and, as authorized by Section 2808, to do so without regard to any other provision of law that may impede the expeditious construction of such projects in response to the national emergency,” he added.
Esper noted the “funds being made available are associated only with deferred military construction projects that are not scheduled for award until fiscal year 2020 or later and do not include any family housing, barracks, or dormitory projects.”
That wasn’t enough for the South Florida Democrat who leads the U.S. House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee.
“To pay for his xenophobic border wall boondoggle, President Trump is about to weaken our national security by stealing billions of dollars from our military, including training and intelligence funds from our soldiers and poaching from critical projects our servicemembers and their families need, including schools,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who said she planned to fight the administration during the appropriations process.
“I reminded his administration today that I will not support this theft from our military and that down the road, the House of Representatives will not backfill any projects he steals from today. Trump can pander to his nativist base, but the House will fight his every attempt to make our military families or national security suffer as a result,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Late on Wednesday, news broke that some of the funds being moved were headed to Tyndall Air Force Base which was devastated by Hurricane Michael back in October.
Wasserman Schultz weighed in as $17 million penciled in to build a new fire station at the base was headed to build the wall.
“The Trump administration’s decision to steal funding for vital U.S. military projects, including a critical project in Florida, is an abusive end run around Congress that threatens our national security and will harm the morale and quality of life of our troops,” Wasserman Schultz said on Wednesday night. “Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Michael, especially after having to wait for months for Republicans to approve a disaster supplemental to support reconstruction. Now the Trump administration is stealing $17 million in appropriated funding for a fire and crash rescue station at Tyndall AFB. I visited Tyndall, and I saw the damage that still exists there. This theft of funding for an essential life-safety project adds insult to injury for our state and the servicemembers living and working there. The President is also sacrificing dozens of essential projects around the U.S., in Europe and around the globe, which will weaken our ability to combat Russian aggression and protect our national security interests.
“In order to build a monument to waste and xenophobia with his ineffective, wasteful wall, Donald Trump is also willing to sacrifice military base schools in Kentucky, North Carolina and Puerto Rico; a fire station in South Carolina; a hazardous materials warehouse in Virginia; a child development center in Maryland; and dozens of target ranges, training and power plant projects that are critical for military readiness and the well-being of our servicemembers and their families,” she added.
“I will not support Trump’s brazen robbery from our servicemembers and their families, and the House of Representatives will not backfill any projects Donald Trump steals from our military. My colleagues and I will continue to fight this dangerous decision and work to ensure critical military construction funding is used for its intended purposes: to support our military, enhance readiness, and protect our national security,” Wasserman Schultz said in conclusion.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.