By Alice Hunt Friend, for The Washington Post
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper notified members of Congress on Tuesday that he would take $3.6 billion from military construction projects to build 175 more miles of wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. He can do that legally only because President Trump in February declared an emergency along the border — which, Trump acknowledged, he did to circumvent the fact that Congress had allocated much less than he had requested to build the wall.
The Defense Department has shifted money to build the wall before. Earlier this year, it used $2.5 billion that Congress had allocated to stop drug trafficking to expand the wall; Trump argues that the border wall will accomplish that goal. The new redistribution of money brings to $6.1 billion the total amount of Defense Department spending repurposed for the wall. Esper and other Pentagon officials are now urging Congress to “backfill” — or replenish — the funds being taken out of other military construction projects. Democrats have vowed not to do so, since shifting the money circumvents congressional intent.
Shifting funds already allocated for other military construction has a range of political, legal and national security consequences. Here’s how.