Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense, authorized the diverting of $3.6 billion in military construction funds for 11 wall projects on the southern border with Mexico, CNN reports.
In his letter, Esper told Congress he has “determined that 11 military construction 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.”
Defense Department officials say that 127 military construction projects are being put on hold in order to use the $3.6 billion to fund building 175 miles southern border wall. The announcement fulfills Trump’s promise made in February to tap military construction funds to build his border wall.
Criticism: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the move “a slap in the face” to service members: “This decision will harm already planned, important projects intended to support our service members at military installations in New York, across the United States, and around the world,” he wrote in a statement. “It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country that President Trump is willing to cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build.”
Schumer said that the lost funding would delay critical construction projects at such as the US Military Academy at West Point in New York.
Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also criticized the move: “President Trump’s immigration efforts have failed since day one. Today, he made it clear he is willing to take funds from our troops and disaster victims and divert them to try to protect his political right flank. And ultimately, that could put Americans at risk.”
Reed added: “This isn’t just an attempt to shift funding, it’s a bid to shift power away from Congress to the president. Clearly, this administration is trying to circumvent Congressional authority and this ill-advised attempt should be legally challenged and struck down by the courts.”
Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman stated that half the money is coming from deferred projects overseas, and the other half were planned for projects in the US.