Pentagon slicing $3.6B from military construction projects to fund border wall
Trump said the money is needed in the name of "national security."
The Pentagon notified lawmakers Wednesday about military construction projects in their districts that will be deferred or delayed in order to divert funding to build the president's wall at the southern border -- including hundreds of millions of dollars that was slated for military reconstruction due to Hurricane Maria.
The money will come from 127 military projects that were already appropriated by Congress, including $1.8 billion of the $3.6 billion in diverted funds taken from overseas projects and $1.8 billion from projects in the United States and American territories.
From the list of military construction projects that are in the United States, 52.9% of the diverted funding comes from congressional districts represented by a House Democrat -- totaling about $101 million more than Republican districts facing deferrals. According to an ABC News analysis, $932,146,000 of $1,763,245 is pulled from 31 projects in Democratic congressional districts.
Thirty-four other projects in Republican congressional districts total $831,099,000 in deferred money for the border wall -- $101,047,000 less than Democrats -- though Republicans have three more projects being deferred than Democrats.
The three affected territories are Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The more than $400 million of deferred funding from Puerto Rico was earmarked for Hurricane Maria reconstruction of U.S. military facilities, as was $23.5 million from U.S. Virgin Islands projects.
A senior defense official told reporters that the administration is committed to the Puerto Rico recovery, but explained that the earliest award date for the affected projects in Puerto Rico is September 2020.
"We think you are not going to be delayed because of how far out into the future they are in the meantime," the official said. "We did continue with all the cleanup work from that horrible storm."
There are nine school projects affected: six overseas and three stateside. Only one of those projects was for a new school, while the rest was designated for renovations or refurbishing existing buildings.
The senior defense official said that the administration is in discussions with Congress to recover the $3.6 billion that has been reprogrammed for the 175 miles of wall. When the DOD budget request was made last year, the Pentagon asked that the $3.6 billion in wall funding to be paid back.
In March, the Pentagon circulated a list of hundreds of projects that constituted a broader $6.8 billion universe of projects under consideration.
President Donald Trump said that he and Defense Secretary Mark Esper believe the money is needed in the name of "national security."
"It is when you have thousands of people trying to rush our country. I think that's national security, when you have drugs pouring into our country," Trump said in the Oval Office on Wednesday. "I view that as national security and [Esper] had very good conversations with various members of Congress."
The Pentagon informed Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine that the administration plans to move money from four military construction projects in Virginia, including a Cyber Operations Facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis that will lose $10 million; a Navy Ships Maintenance Facility in Portsmouth that will lose $26.1 million; a project to replace a hazardous materials warehouse in Norfolk that will lose $18.5 million; and another project to replace a hazardous materials warehouse in Portsmouth that will lose $22.5 million.
"Taking money away from our military -- including funding to support critical projects here in Virginia -- will mean we are less equipped to tackle threats here at home and abroad," Warner said.
Trump predicted that 500 miles of refurbished border wall will be built by the end of next year, shortly after the presidential election.
"We are building very large sections of wall," Trump said. "We should have it almost complete, if not complete, by the end of next year."