Donald Trump on a tour of US-Mexico border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California, March 13, 2018 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorizes the give-away of $3.6 billion in military construction funds for Donald Trump’s Wall with Mexico.
Esper announced the authorization, for 11 projects on the southern US border in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. He said the measure was necessary to support the use of the armed forces in connection with the “national emergency” announced by Trump in February.
Without using the word “wall” the letter said funds will be used for new fencing projects.
Donald Trump has demanded The Wall since his 2016 campaign, saying that Mexico would pay for it and falsely claiming that the US was facing a “crisis” of increasing number of migrants and drugs crossing the border.
However, he failed to get Congressional authorization for funds, even after he shut down the Federal Government for a record-setting 35 days in December and January. Trump then ordered the diversion of more than $8 billion in Government funds, most of it from military construction and counter-narcotics programs, for his project.
Since then, Trump has falsely declared that The Wall is being built, when in fact there has only been reconstruction or bolstering of existing fences.
Trump’s demand for a 30-foot-high Wall of either concrete or steel across most of the 1,900-mile US-Mexico border is estimated to cost at least $25 billion.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday:
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. 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 the loss in funding will delay important construction projects at military installations such as the US Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Defense Department officials confirmed that 127 construction projects are being put on hold. Half the money is coming from deferred projects overseas, and the other half from projects in the US.
The list of projects has not been revealed, but it could include command and control, drone, and cyber projects as well as training facilities in the US and abroad.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday, “[We will] seek a court order blocking use of the funds as part of its lawsuit challenging the president’s abuse of emergency powers to secure funds for a wall Congress denied.”
Even if the Administration wins the court challenge, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Elaine McCusker said building of the Wall on private land could go past 2020 because of issues over acquisition.