Many dozens, perhaps of hundreds of military construction projects around the nation and the globe are at risk of delay or cancellation because of President Donald Trump’s national emergency over his border wall, according to a Defense Department list provided to Congress on Monday.
From $41 million for repairs to a heating system at Eielson Air Force Base outside Fairbanks, Alaska, to $17 million for a crash rescue station at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, planned money could instead go to build a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We know President Trump wants to take money from our national security accounts to pay for his wall, and now we have a list of some of the projects and needed base repairs that could be derailed or put on the chopping block as a result,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger.
The White House did not respond to a HuffPost query about the list. Trump promised hundreds of times during his campaign that he would force Mexico to pay for his border wall, but has not made that request to Mexican officials even once since taking office.
Congress passed legislation blocking Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration, with 13 House Republicans and 12 GOP senators joining with Democrats, but Trump vetoed the measure on Friday.
For weeks, lawmakers had asked the Department of Defense for a list of projects that could be canceled or delayed, but the Pentagon did not provide the list to Reed’s office until Monday — after the Senate already voted and Trump issued his veto.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled an attempt to override Trump’s veto on March 26, when members return from a weeklong recess. She will need nearly 60 GOP votes to overturn the veto. That number seemed impossible previously, and it is unclear how many more Republicans will vote against Trump once they see that projects in their own states or districts could be affected.
“What President Trump is doing is a slap in the face to our military that makes our border and the country less secure,” Reed said. “He is planning to take funds from real, effective operational priorities and needed projects and divert them to his vanity wall. That may help shore up his political base, but it could come at the expense of our military bases and the men and women of our armed forces who rely on them.”
It is unclear from the Pentagon’s memo, though, exactly which projects would be affected. In a one-page fact sheet, the department states that only projects whose construction contracts are scheduled to be awarded after Sept. 30 will be considered, which greatly narrows down the total list. A large number of projects have contract award dates before Sept. 30, which presumably means they would be safe.
Further, an award date after Sept. 30 does not necessarily mean that a project would be affected, only that it is in the pool to be considered for delay or cancellation. Trump’s emergency declaration authorized $3.6 billion to be transferred from military construction projects, but DOD officials have said the actual amount would depend on how much the Department of Homeland Security said it needs. And as of Monday, the DHS has not submitted such a list — more than a month after the emergency declaration.
Trump’s proposed 2020 budget asks Congress for an additional $8.6 billion, which would be enough to “finish” the wall, according to his acting budget chief, Russell Vought. That amount is $7 billion more than the administration asked for the border barrier in any previous budget requests.
Trump did not start making wall funding an issue until Fox News and radio talk show hosts started ridiculing him last March for failing to deliver on his signature campaign promise. Since then, he has swung frequently from claiming — falsely — that much of his wall is already under construction to claiming — also falsely — that record numbers of human traffickers, drug smugglers and common criminals are entering the country at points along the border where there is no physical barrier.
Republicans close to the White House acknowledged privately that Trump’s interest is primarily driven by satisfying his core supporters who badly want a wall.
Multiple lawsuits have also been filed in hopes of blocking Trump’s emergency declaration — the first such national emergency in the 43 years of the law’s existence that attempts to overrule a policy and funding choice that was specifically made by Congress.