The Pentagon notified Congress on Thursday that it would shift $3.8 billion from the defense budget to help pay for the construction of 177 miles of new border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The money, earmarked for other things like purchases of fighter aircraft, vehicles, warships and other types of weapon systems, will be re-allocated into a counter-narcotics account allowing for the construction of the new miles of border wall in federally controlled areas in four southwestern border states.
The Department of Homeland Security "has identified areas along the southern border of the United States that are being used by individuals, groups and transnational criminal organizations as drug smuggling corridors,” the Pentagon document justifying the re-allocation of funds to Congress said. “Construction of additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border is necessary."
The new construction is scheduled to begin in areas near San Diego and El Centro, California; Yuma and Tucson, Arizona, and El Paso and Del Rio, Texas.
"The Secretary of Defense has made a decision today to support the DHS' support for assistance that the department received on Jan. 15," Robert Salesses, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense Integration, told a reporters on Thursday. "The DHS request specifically identified the need for fences, roads and lighting" at several points along the border, often used by Mexican drug cartels to smuggle drugs across the border.
The Pentagon shifted $6.1 billion for the construction of President Donald Trump's border wall last year to meet requests from the Department of Homeland Security.
Leading Democrats pushed back against the Trump administration using funds earmarked for the Pentagon to fulfill his promise of a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
"President Trump and his Administration have spent months trying to take critical resources away from our Armed Forces," Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said in a statement. “Congress, not the President, has the power of the purse — a power that cannot be nullified so the President can fulfill an outrageous campaign promise.”
The diverted funding will mean the Air Force and Navy will be forced to cancel four F-35 and F-22 fighters, two MV-22 Ospreys, four C-130J cargo planes and eight MQ-9 Reaper drones, the LA Times reports. Another $156 million will be taken away from programs that fund the F-35, $180 million for an Air Force light attack aircraft, $650 million for amphibious assault ships, and another $300 million for Army vehicles.
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