The Washington Post on Sunday revealed that it had obtained Department of Defense documents outlining in more detail how the Trump administration plans to shift $1.5 billion originally designated for other military projects to help build the border wall.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Congress on Friday that the Pentagon would be reprogramming money previously allotted for the war in Afghanistan and other military projects to help construct 80 miles of border barriers. Apart from this $1.5 billion, the Pentagon has also pledged $1 billion from Army personnel funds and $3.6 billion from other military construction projects to assist with border wall construction.
Shanahan said that the shift in funding would not affect the military’s readiness but did not specify the particular projects from which the Pentagon would be drawing the money. However, Washington Post reports that, based on internal documents, the department plans to delay an upgrade for its Minuteman II ballistic missile program, which is decades old. The Air Force has been testing a Minuteman III program in order to replace the nuclear intercontinental Minuteman II missiles.
The Pentagon also plans to delay an unspecified development in the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). AWACS planes conduct surveillance and communicate with fighter planes. The Post notes that the Pentagon terminated a $76 million contract with Boeing due to development delays late in 2018.
The department will be shifting additionally funds from a “space test experiment” run by the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA), the Blended Retirement System for servicemembers, and “Overseas Contingency Operations” funds to assist coalition forces and the Afghan military.
The documents obtained by the Post do not specify the amount of money coming from each program, though the AP reported that $604 million would be coming from the Afghan Security Forces Fund, $251 million from a project to destroy chemical munitions, $344 million from miscellaneous Air Force programs, $244 million from a military retirement system, and $78 million from a fund for military coalition partners.
Democrats have voiced their displeasure over the Pentagon’s border wall funding plans, characterizing them as an attempt to bypass Congress. Several Democratic senators, including Patrick Leahy and Dianne Feinstein, sent a joint letter to Shanahan expressing their dismay. “Once again, the Department of Defense has ignored decades of precedent and cooperation with the Congress in carrying out a transfer of funds without regard to any consultation with the Appropriations Committee,” the letter read, in part. “We are dismayed that the Department has chosen to prioritize a political campaign promise over the disaster relief needs of our service members, given the finite reprogramming authority available.”
The White House announced Thursday that Trump plans to nominate Shanahan to permanently serve as Secretary of Defense. The senators indicated that they will likely bring the funding issue up during his confirmation hearing.
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