01.17.20

Leahy, Durbin, Reed And Schatz Demand Answers On Reports That President Trump Intends To Raid $7.2 Billion From The Military And Military Families For His Wall

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, January 17, 2020) – Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Ranking Member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) Friday released their letter to Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Mark Esper demanding answers on recent reports that President Trump intends to raid $7.2 billion in DoD funds to pay for his ineffective wall along the southern border.

In December, a bipartisan majority of Congress refused to backfill the $3.6 billion in DoD funds appropriated by Congress for military construction projects that President Trump raided in fiscal year 2019, effectively cancelling 127 military construction projects across 26 states and territories and taking billions from DoD counter-narcotics programs.

Leahy, Durbin, Reed, and Schatz wrote:  “We urge you to oppose this action and consider the Airmen in aging hangars, Soldiers in failing maintenance shops, Sailors training to improve readiness, Marines in asbestos-laden operations centers, and all of their families relying on deteriorating schools and child development centers, before you divert funding from military construction accounts.”

It has been four months since President Trump and his administration released the list of 127 projects totaling $3.6 billion that the president would raid to pay for his ineffective wall and to support his extreme anti-immigrant policies in fiscal year 2019.  For four months, the administration has refused to issue project cancellation notices to Congress as required by law.  Now, seemingly operating under the fantasy that American taxpayers should be forced to backfill the projects they raided, the administration appears poised to steal billions more despite the fact that the vast majority of the funds taken in 2019 remain unspent. 

The full letter is available HERE and below: 

January 16, 2019

The Honorable Mark T. Esper

Secretary

Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301

 

Dear Secretary Esper,

We are deeply concerned with reports that the President intends to raid another $7.2 billion from the Department of Defense (DoD) to construct a border wall.  We urge you to oppose this action and consider the Airmen in aging hangars, Soldiers in failing maintenance shops, Sailors training to improve readiness, Marines in asbestos-laden operations centers, and all of their families relying on deteriorating schools and child development centers, before you divert funding from military construction accounts.

On December 20, 2019, the President signed into law two appropriations bills making funds available for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020.  Congress specifically did not provide any requested DoD funds for border wall construction or to backfill the September 2019 raid of $3.6 billion from various military construction accounts.  Moreover, since DoD has not spent the vast majority of funds already taken in 2019, diverting billions more away from the needs of our service members is unnecessary and inappropriate.  It is illogical in the extreme to assume that Congress will provide any funding in FY 2021 to backfill projects once-again raided for a border wall that does not serve our national security.

Furthermore, we are concerned that the Department will also seek to divert recently approved Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding for additional wall construction.  It is difficult to understand any rationale for using war-related funding to fulfill an unpopular campaign promise.  We understand that there may be an effort to propose a new supplemental appropriations bill due to the crisis in the Middle East, but such a proposal would make no sense if the very same funds are to be raided for further wall construction.  We note that the President has claimed that Saudi Arabia will pay “100 percent of the cost” of additional troop deployments to that country, making the case for a supplemental appropriations request even more puzzling.

However, in the event you are preparing to announce another raid on the military budget, we ask that you provide us answers to the following questions: 

  • Will the services whose funding was redirected to border wall construction be directed to issue project cancellation notices to Congress, as required by law pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2853? If not, why not, and if so, when will that take place?
  • DoD could have awarded dozens of projects over the past few months, including those that support homeland air defense in Louisiana, medical needs for Marines in North Carolina, and F-35 beddown in Alaska, but instead directed the funding to building the border wall. How are you mitigating the operational and fiscal impacts to these and the dozens more projects that were scheduled to be awarded in the coming months?
  • Have you evaluated whether any military construction projects in the FY 2021 program will be affected by the decision to cut prior year projects? For example, the Marine Corps Future Year’s Defense Program identifies ten FY 2021 projects on Guam, but four Navy-sponsored and four Air Force-sponsored projects were already cut.
  • What criteria would the Department use to determine which previously funded projects would be raided? Would it follow last year’s action exempting family and troop housing, as well as projects scheduled to be awarded in this fiscal year?
  • Would the burden be evenly split between overseas and domestic military construction projects?
  • How much has Saudi Arabia provided to the United States for troop deployment costs, and under what authority?

We expect you to exercise good judgement and be transparent and communicative with us, especially as we move into development of the Fiscal Year 2021 authorization and appropriations bills. Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you.

# # # # #

Press Contact

Jay Tilton w/Leahy – 202-224-2667

Emily Hampsten w/Durbin – 202-228-643

Chip Unruh w/Reed – 202-224-4642

Michael Inacay w/Schatz – 202-224-3123