These Military Construction Projects Could Be Cut to Fund a Border Wall

In this Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, file photo, members of the U.S. military install multiple tiers of concertina wire along the banks of the Rio Grande near the Juarez-Lincoln Bridge at the U.S.-Mexico border, in Laredo, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
In this Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, file photo, members of the U.S. military install multiple tiers of concertina wire along the banks of the Rio Grande near the Juarez-Lincoln Bridge at the U.S.-Mexico border, in Laredo, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

President Donald Trump has a long list of military construction projects large and small to take money from in order to cobble together $3.5 billion in funding for his planned border wall. They range from a dog treatment facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to schools and new housing for military families.

In a public address and a question-and-answer session at the White House on Friday, Trump said the $3.5 billion would be part of the $8 billion he intends to devote to new wall construction after declaring a national emergency to keep out an "invasion" of immigrants.

To reach the $8 billion total, the administration is also seeking to tap $2.5 billion from counter-narcotics programs and $600 million from Treasury Department asset forfeitures.

An additional $1.375 billion for border security measures was included in a bill to fund several government departments to avoid another partial government shutdown at midnight Friday.

But while Trump is able to reallocate funds under national emergency conditions, defense officials said Friday that the Pentagon would have a role in what follows.

"Per 10 U.S.C., Section 2808 (Military Construction (MILCON)), this declaration of a national emergency at the southern border requiring the use of the armed forces authorizes the secretary of defense to determine whether border barriers are necessary to support the use of the armed forces and to re-direct unobligated DOD MILCON funding to construct border barriers if required," officials said in a statement.

They added that the Defense Department would "review and respond appropriately" to any request for assistance received by the Department of Homeland Security.

Related: ACLU Says It Will Sue over Trump Emergency Order

Trump signed the bill, and declared the national emergency, immediately after his Rose Garden appearance.

"Some generals thinks this is more important," he said of building the wall rather than funding military construction projects. Without being specific, Trump said that some of the projects that would be canceled "didn't sound too important to me."

House and Senate Democrats charge that Trump is choosing the wall over projects that would improve the lives of military families.

On Twitter, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) wrote, "Removing lead from military housing, making overseas bases safer" and "upgrading hospitals that treat wounded troops" are better priorities than a border wall.

"These are the types of projects military construction funding is supposed to pay for when it isn't stolen to build a wall that won't make us safer," said Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The worldwide projects that are potential targets for defunding were listed in the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. Their cancellation risks alienating members of Congress from both sides of the aisle who have projects in their states or districts.

One of the projects is for $62 million to construct a middle school at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican.

Some of the projects important for military families include $63 million for family housing on Guam; $68 million for housing in Vicenza, Italy; $6.2 million for housing at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; $26 million for housing at Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico; $68 million for housing at Camp Walker, South Korea; and $13 million for a child development center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Other projects include $14 million for improvements at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait; $123 million for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; $127 million for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California; $27 million for Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington; $225 million for Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts; and $9 million for a Working Dog Treatment Facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Many of the projects potentially targeted could also come from those in the fund for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), the so-called "war budget" that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to congressional aides.

The OCO projects include $17 million for a staging area in Poland; $41 million for a Joint Mobility Processing Center in Souda, Greece; $119 million for a storage warehouse in Ramstein, Germany; and $49 million for a regional maintenance storage area in Great Britain.

According to the congressional aides, the White House will communicate to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan the amount of money wanted from the military construction budget for the wall, and he will select the projects to be defunded.

On Thursday, the aides said Trump could have access to as much as $21 billion in "unobligated" funds -- money allocated but not yet spent -- from military construction projects going back five years.

However, the White House on Friday appeared to be limiting itself to the $11.3 billion in the military construction budget for the current fiscal year.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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