Feb. 13 (UPI) — The Department of Defense has asked to divert $3.8 billion from weapons procurement to construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
According to a reprogramming request, the Pentagon would shift $2.02 billion in fiscal 2020 defense appropriations and $1.6 billion in fiscal 2020 overseas contingency operations in order to fund construction of the wall.
On the chopping block are aircraft purchases, including some F-35 joint strike fighters, C-130J cargo aircraft, MQ-9 Reaper drones and P-8 maritime surveillance planes, as well as ground vehicles and naval equipment.
Aircraft procurement for the Navy and Marine Corps would go down by $558 million if the request is honored, and by $861 million for the Air Force.
President Donald Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign was fueled in part by promises to expand the border wall, which began construction in 2006, and continuing construction has been a key priority as he faces re-election in November.
Congressional Democrats immediately condemned the potential diversion of funds.
A joint statement from House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., called the wall “a political vanity project” and called on congressional Republicans to stand up to the president.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said the project would have a negative effect on national security.
“The President loves to take credit for ‘rebuilding’ the military, but today’s reprogramming decision does the exact opposite — it will prevent the acquisition of critical ships, vehicles, and aircraft,” Smith wrote. “Of the $3.8 billion that the President will raid for the wall, $1.5 billion will come from the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account, robbing every state and territory of critical funds specifically added by Congress to address dual-purpose equipment shortfalls — such as fire-fighting, engineering, and communications equipment — to support local authorities for public safety and natural disaster response.”
He also wrote that the administration’s practice of diverting defense funds to pay for the border wall “does not match their rhetoric” of prioritizing the “great power competition with Russia and China.”
In September 2019, the Pentagon approved reallocation of $3.6 billion in funding for 127 military construction projects to fund 11 border wall construction projects.