The Trump White House notified Congress on Thursday that it would be diverting $3.8 billion from Pentagon to fund wall construction along the U.S. southern border, marking the second year in a row that defense funds have been directed towards wall construction projects.
The new wall spending measure includes around $1.3 billion in funds drawn from the National Guard, according to the Washington Times. Other funds are reportedly drawn from drug interdiction spending under the justification that the Pentagon can use that funding to raise barriers along drug smuggling routes on the border.
Last February, President Donald Trump concluded an ongoing government shutdown fight over wall funding by agreeing to Congress’ 2019 budget and then declaring a national emergency on the southern border. In his emergency order, Trump called on the Pentagon draw some $6.5 billion in its funds to go to the wall construction effort.
The new funding measure would also reportedly divert money from two F-35 fighter jets, at a combined cost of $223 million, according to Politico. The funding diversion would also cost $100 million from the Humvee modernization program; $650 million cut from Navy funds to replace its amphibious assault ships, and $261 million from the Navy’s Expeditionary Fast Transport ship program.
The funding also draws $196 million from the U.S. Air Force C-130J transport aircraft and $180 million from its light attack aircraft program.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) the chair of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee criticized the latest funding diversion.
“They’re flush with money,” Roybal-Allard said Thursday. “They have plenty of money, which they haven’t used.”
She warned that Trump would keep pushing national budget money towards the border wall unless congress takes action.
House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), the chairman of the Defense spending panel said, in a joint statement, warned that some Republicans lawmaker may also be hurt by not doing more to bar Trump from taking from Pentagon funds.
“While some of our Republican colleagues will lament the President’s decision, they enabled this theft by blocking our efforts to stop the President from raiding defense accounts,” Lowey and Visclosky said. “Until they stand up to President Trump, our national security will continue to be threatened and our Constitutional system of government will continue to be undermined.”
Trump’s 2019 Pentagon spending diversions have already seen opposition from Congress. Both the Democratic House of Representatives and the Republican Senate have voted in support of measures to end Trump’s 2019 emergency declaration. Both measures passed in Congress but did not have enough votes to overcome Trump’s veto powers.
Other opponents to the Pentagon funding diversions challenged the Trump administration through the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed Trump to go forward with one portion of the 2019 funding effort. In January a federal appeals court struck down a challenge to another portion of the 2019 Pentagon funds assigned to wall construction efforts, which has been winding its way through the lower courts for several months.
The border wall had been a major part of Trump’s 2016 campaign and he has persisted with the wall efforts throughout his presidency, despite funding fights, legal challenges and delays.
Members of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) said they need $11.1 billion in total to build 576 miles of wall on the border with Mexico. With the additional funding, CBP officials indicated they hope to have 450 miles of wall complete or nearly complete by the end of 2020.