As President Donald Trump on Friday announced a pair of executive actions and declared a national emergency to funnel more money into border security, lawmakers in both parties in Congress were left in the dark on how the Pentagon would deal with the largest part of the President’s declaration, carving $3.6 billion out of military construction projects authorized and funded by the U.S. House and Senate.
“I strongly believe securing our border should not be done at the expense of previously funded military construction projects,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), whose district is home to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, which received $116 million in 2019 for construction of a new building for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.
“We certainly cannot allow him to rob our military of $3.5 billion for critical construction projects that serve our troops, support our allies, and deter our adversaries,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).
Congress approved $10.3 billion for military construction for Fiscal Year 2019, doling out money to dozens of domestic and overseas military facilities, projects which are often prized as bring-home-the-bacon items for Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress.
The list of military construction projects in each year’s budget runs the gamut of military needs – from an F-35 maintenance hangar at Camp Pendleton in California, to a training facility at the Mayport Naval Base near Jacksonville, Florida, to a reserve training center at Fort Benning in Georgia, to a dry dock facility at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and much more.
In all, military construction money was approved last fall by lawmakers for defense installations in 38 different states, and at least 14 overseas locations, some of those U.S. possessions.
You can read through the list of projects from the bill here.
A quick look at the list of military facilities with 2019 funding shows that many of them are located in House districts held by Republican lawmakers – who could find money for their local military project in jeopardy, as the President tries to funnel more money to his signature border wall.
Democrats from around the country were quick to issue statements asking that their home state military construction projects be spared from any cuts, and challenging their GOP colleagues to do the same.
The Pentagon and the White House had no answers for reporters on Friday on which military construction projects would be put on hold, whether from the 2019 budget, or from money approved by Congress, but not yet spent from previous years.
“We would be looking at lower priority military construction projects,” a senior administration official told reporters on a Friday conference call before the President’s announcement.
That official – and another senior White House official on the call – both downplayed the amount of money being taken from military construction, with one saying the budget was ‘substantially’ more than the $3.6 billion being diverted by the President.
But that’s not the case.
“I sit on the committee that funds Military Construction,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) tweeted on Friday. “Trump is taking $3.5 billion out of the $10 billion that's in the account. That’s 35%.”
Earlier this month, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee specifically said his biggest concern about an emergency would be taking money out of military construction, a point Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) emphasized again this week.
“As I heard in a hearing yesterday, military housing and all military installations are facing disrepair and poor conditions,” Inhofe said. “We cannot afford to allow them to be further impacted.”