Some 127 military construction projects will be put on hold to divert $3.6 billion in funding to a wall at the Southwest border. And that money may never be refunded, a senior Defense Department official said Wednesday.
The Pentagon will work with Congress, which had already rejected funding the border wall, to get the money back in future budgets. However, "I don't think there are any guarantees," the senior official, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, said at a Pentagon briefing.
The official also said the administration will talk with allies about picking up the costs for some overseas projects whose funding has been cut off in the Trump administration's effort to build 175 miles of new and replacement wall on the southern U.S. border.
"We've reached out to them about burden sharing," the official said.
A partial list of 94 of the 127 projects provided by the Pentagon includes 34 in 23 states totaling $1.07 billion; 21 in Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands totaling $687 million; and 39 in 20 foreign countries totaling $1.8 billion.
No family housing projects, barracks or dormitories were affected, the senior official said.
The $3.6 billion taken from the military construction projects was in response to a "lawful order" from President Donald Trump to deal with an emergency on the southern border that requires 11 projects to build about 103 miles of new wall and 72 miles of replacement wall, according to defense officials.
"We've got an emergency on the southwest border we've got to address," the senior official said. "All these projects are important to us, but we also have to respond to an emergency."
The official said the Defense Department still intends to complete the projects that were put on hold and will work with Congress "to try to get an outcome that supports these projects."
The targeted projects include those in in Florida, North Carolina and Puerto Rico that were hit hard by hurricanes last year.
A $17 million fire and rescue station slated for Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, replacing one badly damaged by Hurricane Michael, was on the list; as was a total of $40 million in funding for projects at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, which was hit by Hurricane Florence; and projects worth $400 million for Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
Elsewhere, projects put on hold range from a $50 million machine gun range on Guam and $88.9 million for pier and maintenance facilities in Bangor to a $95 million engineering center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a $5.2 million weapons maintenance shop at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama.
Nine school building projects were on the list -- six overseas and three in the U.S., including $62.6 million for the Fort Campbell middle school in Kentucky, home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
In letters to Congress, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the funding from the military construction projects would instead go to 11 projects to replace existing wall structures and to build new lengths of wall. Four of the border wall projects are in the Yuma, Arizona, area and others are near San Diego, El Paso, Texas, and Laredo, Texas, the Defense Department said in a statement Wednesday.
The money diverted for wall funding represents only a fraction of total military construction. Overall, the Defense Department has slated a total of $34 billion for more than 11,100 military construction projects, the defense official said.
In a statement Wednesday, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said "I regret that the president has been forced to divert funding for our troops to address the crisis" on the border. "His initial requests to secure the border were not unreasonable and Congress should have been able to come together to find a compromise."
Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that Trump, in diverting the money to the wall, was "short-changing our troops and taxpayers and forcing them to bear the burden of his broken, preposterous campaign promise" that the wall would be paid for by Mexico.
"Clearly, this administration is trying to circumvent Congressional authority and this ill-advised attempt should be legally challenged and struck down by the courts," Reed said in a statement.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com.