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Pentagon approves $1.5 billion for 80-mile wall on US-Mexico border

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan meets with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., May 9, 2019. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
May 10, 2019

Funding for 80 additional miles of border wall was approved by the Department of Defense.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved a plan to reallocate $1.5 billion in defense funds for the border wall’s construction, Fox News reported Friday.

“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.”

The funds were pulled from the Afghan Security Forces Fund, Air Force programs, coalition support funding, a chemical weapons project, and military retirement system savings.

The approval comes nearly two months after Shanahan’s first funding reallocation approval, which diverted $1 billion in defense funds for 60 miles of border wall construction around Yuma, Ariz. and El Paso, Texas.

Another $3.6 billion is anticipated to be pulled from various military construction projects to add to the border wall construction, but details of that plan are not yet known.

In March, the Pentagon identified $12.8 billion in 400 funded military construction projects that could potentially be used for the southern border wall.

Shanahan plans to visit the southern border on Saturday. He said the DOD is “fully engaged” in efforts to solve the border crisis, adding that 4,000 troops and 19 military aircraft are deployed in support of the southern border mission.

On Wednesday, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel that the department plans to keep troops on the southern border for the “next couple years,” Stars & Stripes reported.

Using the powers granted by the National Emergencies Act, Trump deployed a national emergency order in February after Congress approved just $1.375 billion for border security, permitting only 55 miles of border fencing, despite his request for $5.7 billion.

The order directed $6.5 billion to be drawn from federal departments — $3.6 billion of which was expected to be diverted from the Pentagon’s military construction budget. Another $2.5 billion was expected to be pulled from the military counternarcotics programs, and $600 million from an asset forfeiture program in the Treasury Department.

Attorney General Bill Barr said Trump’s national emergency declaration was “clearly authorized under the law,” adding that the southern border crisis warranted such a declaration.

The White House just confirmed Thursday that Trump will be nominating Shanahan as the official Secretary of Defense, after he has served as acting capacity since January.

“Based upon his outstanding service to the Country and his demonstrated ability to lead, President Trump intends to nominate Patrick M. Shanahan to be the Secretary of Defense,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.