Pentagon Lists Projects That Will Be Delayed to Fund Border Wall

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon plans to divert funds from military construction projects in nearly half the 50 states, three territories and 19 countries to the southwestern border wall as part of President Trump’s efforts to bypass Congress and redirect spending to his signature campaign promise.

Nearly every facet of military life, from a canceled dining center in Puerto Rico to a small arms firing range in Tulsa, Okla., to an elementary school in Wiesbaden, Germany, will be affected by the transfer of $3.6 billion in congressionally appropriated funds detailed by the Defense Department on Wednesday.

The cuts involve projects such as rifle ranges, aircraft simulators, hangars, port repairs and a cyberoperations center in Virginia, with the biggest impact in Puerto Rico, Guam, New York and New Mexico. In the case of Puerto Rico, the Defense Department plans to divert funds from projects targeted after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017.

The $3.6 billion, taken from 127 projects across the globe, will go toward 11 projects in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, which include both new construction and some fencing replacement. The longest stretch of new pedestrian fencing — about 52 miles — is scheduled for Laredo, Tex., along the Rio Grande.

Reacting to the Pentagon’s announcement, Democrats assailed what they said was an assault on military readiness and lawmakers from both parties voiced discomfort with what they called an attempt by the White House to subvert their constitutional mandate to set government spending.

Members of Congress began disclosing details about the projects targeted for cuts after Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary, and his department notified them about what projects in their district or state would be affected. The Pentagon later released a full list, with a senior Defense Department official insisting that the military was simply carrying out a lawful order from the president to address a national security emergency at the border.

The phone calls and formal letters from Mr. Esper were the first time that members of Congress had been notified about which specific projects would have their funding reallocated. Lawmakers had pressed both White House officials and the Defense Department to release details of the affected projects since February, when Mr. Trump declared a national emergency at the southwestern border and made the funds available under the National Emergencies Act of 1976.

The Trump administration had promised to notify lawmakers about the projects before both the Senate and the House voted to repeal Mr. Trump’s national emergency declaration and the president vetoed the legislation, which he described as “dangerous,” “reckless” and a “vote against reality.”

Mr. Trump told reporters on Wednesday that Mr. Esper had “very good conversations with various members of Congress.”

“He feels it’s a national security problem,” Mr. Trump added. “I do, too.”

In a joint statement, two Utah Republicans, Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, agreed that border protections needed to be strengthened, but said that Congress had ceded power to the executive branch and needed to pass legislation defending its ability to set spending.

“Funding the border wall is an important priority, and the executive branch should use the appropriate channels in Congress, rather than divert already appropriated funding away from military construction projects and therefore undermining military readiness,” Mr. Romney said.

Democrats were more scathing in their objections. A group from the Senate Appropriations Committee, in its own joint statement, recalled that “the president promised Mexico would pay for his wall, not the military and their families.”

“This is a subversion of the will of the American people and their representatives,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader. “It is an attack on our military and its effectiveness to keep Americans safe.”

The timing of the cuts is likely to intensify the looming debate over how to fund the government and set defense policy, and the Democratic majority in the House and the Republican majority in the Senate will most likely be at odds over whether to replace the funds diverted to the border.

Privately, several Pentagon officials acknowledged that their position was tenuous, since Congress would ultimately have to agree to replace the funds. If Congress does not agree to do that, the projects will be effectively canceled.

Once Congress returns on Monday from its August recess, the Senate and the House will have to reconcile their versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense policy bill. While the Senate agreed to replace the funds that were expected to be removed from military construction, the House refused to do so and included an additional provision that would bar the administration from trying to reallocate funds in the next fiscal year.

“It is important that Congress now restore the military construction funding diverted for border security,” said Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, who expressed his “regret that the president has been forced to divert funding for our troops.”

The debate is also expected to spill into the annual spending fight, with Congress yet to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the government beyond Oct. 1 into the new fiscal year. With a short-term spending bill most likely needed to prevent a shutdown, the administration has already asked for such legislation to include money for border barrier construction in the Rio Grande Valley.

A spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, Evan Hollander, said Democrats would reject that provision.

Democratic members of the Appropriations Committees in both chambers already balked at the news late last month that the administration had plans to move more than $150 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund to pay for temporary immigration courts at the border.

“We’re using much less here than we anticipated,” Mr. Trump said, when asked about the concerns about the money transfer. “We thought this was going to be a direct — originally this was going to be a direct hit into Miami and we would have been satisfied anyway. No, we need help on the border.”

House Democrats also made a point of including a provision that rejected the administration’s request for money to replace the reallocated funds and for future installments of wall funding in spending legislation that passed the House this year. But that language will have to be reconciled with Senate legislation, which has not yet been passed out of the upper chamber’s Appropriations Committee.

“It’s certainly not going to help us move forward and get these bills done, and that’s an understatement,” Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Reporting was contributed by Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Catie Edmondson and Zach Montague.

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