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Pentagon releases plan to return $2.2B military funds from Trump border wall back to military projects

President Donald J. Trump, meets with Gloria Chavez, the Chief Patrol Agent, El Centro Sector for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at border wall, April 5, 2019, in Calexico, Calif. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
June 11, 2021

At President Joe Biden’s directive, the Department of Defense released a plan on Friday to restore $2.2 billion in military construction funds that former President Donald Trump previously used for construction of a wall on the southern U.S. border.

The plan details how the DOD can return $2.2 billion of freed military construction funds and restore the funds to 66 construction projects in 11 states, 3 territories, and 16 countries.

The projects include a wide range of military base construction projects, including aircraft maintenance facilities and hangars, schools,

Only 12 of the 66 projects are located in the U.S, at a cost of $299 million. Another 17 projects worth $608 million are in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Another list of 17 projects in overseas nations, including Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, United Kingdom and others, total another $1.25 billion.

The plan leaves $32 billion in balances amount the Army, Navy, Air Force, Army National Guard and Air National Guard, as well as the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

“The decision to restore funding for well-designed and executable projects was based on operational and component priorities,” the DOD said.

The plan – which was approved by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks – and the DOD’s April 30 announcement cancelling all border wall construction, were directed by one of Biden’s first executive orders on his first day in office.

“I have informed the Secretary of Homeland Security that DoD will no longer undertake the construction of fences and roads and installation of lighting at the southern border,” Hicks wrote in an official memo.

While all construction projects have been canceled since the April 30 announcement, funding for the border wall had remained frozen after GOP lawmakers accused Biden of breaking the law by stopping border wall construction and pausing funding. Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), is currently investigating the claim.

Trump had previously won the authority through a July 26, 2019 Supreme Court decision to divert $2.5 billion in military construction funds to the border wall. At the time, the Court ruled in a 5-4 vote to remove the injunction placed by a lower court, thus allowing the Trump administration to proceed with using some of the Pentagon funds.

Trump had originally ordered in a Feb. 15, 2019 national emergency declaration that $6.5 billion in mostly military funding would be reallocated to the border wall.

Trump’s national emergency order exercised powers afforded by the National Emergencies Act, which establishes what issues constitute an emergency and permits the president to tap into unused funds for a response.

In March 2019, the DOD had reviewed the military construction budget and produced a list of 400 funded military construction projects totaling $12.8 billion that could be tapped for the border wall construction under Trump’s order.