Pentagon shifting $1.5 billion to border wall construction

Pentagon approves plan to shift $1.5B for wall along US-Mexico border

In April, the Pentagon awarded almost $1 billion for wall construction and replacement contracts, the first to be awarded since President Trump declared a national emergency at the border, citing what he called the "long-standing" problem of "large-scale unlawful migration" through the border.

He said the military has found a way to reprogram the $1.5 billion without harming readiness.

"Today, I authorized the transfer of $1.5 billion toward the construction of more than 80 miles of border barrier", he said.

The Pentagon has been under pressure to show it is not diverting the funds from combat missions or other vital work. But he confirmed that $1.5 billion more will be set aside for the border that came in part from "money we were under-running or saving or whatever terminology you want to use from Afghanistan".

"We have very smart people here in the department, and we found ways to do this without having any impact on readiness", he said, speaking before a meeting with Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks.

Some of the diverted money will be taken from personnel accounts and an account for training and equipping Afghan security forces, according to a document provided to Congress and obtained by CNN.

The plans come almost three months after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to use roughly $6 billion in military funds and personnel to build a wall to curtail illegal immigration along the US southern border.

In February, Trump said he planned to pull $3.6 billion from military construction funds and another $2.5 billion from the Defense Department's drug interdiction program through an executive order.

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The Pentagon said the fencing announced Friday totals about 78 miles.

"The Pentagon has now reprogrammed 12 times more money to the wall than for repairs for Tyndall AFB, destroyed by Hurricane Michael".

Lawmakers have previously pressed defense officials about whether reprogramming money for the border wall affects the military's ability to do its job. "We should put troops first!" Unlike Friday's moves, Congress is usually involved in approving the reallocation of military funds, otherwise known as "reprogramming".

Trump has been eager to have the USA military play a larger role on the border and, despite some criticism from lawmakers, Pentagon officials say they are looking to create a long-term plan for assistance.

All 10 Democrats on Senate appropriations subcommittees that handle defense, veterans affairs and related spending, wrote to Shanahan to oppose the decision.

"We have concerns that this reprogramming comes at the expense of the readiness of the Armed Forces", they added, saying that they expected this issue to come up during Shanahan's confirmation hearings now that Trump has tapped him to be the permanent Defense Secretary.

The letter concluded by noting that the lawmakers are looking forward to how Shanahan intends "to fix the damaged relationship between the defense oversight committees" and the Defense Department.

From the base budget, almost $224 million has been yanked from savings related to a military retirement system and another $250 million was pulled from a program used to destroy a stockpile of military chemical agents stored at facilities in Kentucky and Colorado.

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