The government of the US president, Donald Trump, will divert 3.8 billion dollars more from Pentagon funds to build physical barriers on the Mexican border, in a new step to fulfill his electoral promise to erect the wall.
The Pentagon notified several members of Congress on Thursday that it plans to move those funds, something that does not require the permission of lawmakers and that will raise Trump’s spending on border barriers to more than $ 10 billion since last year.
“The Secretary of Defense (Mark Esper) has authorized a support of 3.8 billion to build approximately 177 miles (285 kilometers) of fencing that will help protect our border,” a Pentagon spokesman, Chris Mitchell, told Efe.
The measure will consist of taking funds for new aircraft, naval ships and equipment for the National Guard and giving them to the Department of Homeland Security to repair barriers and build others, according to Pentagon documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy publications.
“We are outraged that the Department (of Defense) has decided to use the funds that Congress has decided to increase to several crucial programs” and allocate them to the wall, nine Democratic senators wrote in a letter sent this Thursday to the Pentagon chief and to which he had Efe access
“Looting these funds is simply an attack on efforts to make sure that our citizen soldiers (the National Guard reservists) are prepared to respond to disasters, both abroad” and in the country, senators added, including Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy.
According to Foreign Policy, which obtained a copy of the Government’s notification, the plan will deprive $ 1.6 billion of the Pentagon’s contingency operations fund abroad, created to respond to emergencies and that this year was to be used to buy more ground and air equipment.
Another 2.2 billion that will now go to the wall were going to be dedicated – as approved by Congress for fiscal year 2020 – to buy Army vehicles and to provide ships to the Navy and airplanes to the Air Force.
The Pentagon’s decision marks a major change in Trump’s policy, because so far the funds he had diverted to the wall came from budget items for the construction of military structures and anti-narcotics operations, but not to buy combat equipment.
In addition, what has outraged many congressmen is that Trump signed just two months ago a defense budget for this fiscal year that allocated funds to these combat operations, and now he has decided to dedicate them instead to border barriers.
After struggling unsuccessfully for two years with the Democratic opposition to raise funds for the wall, Trump decided to dodge Congress and divert funding from the Pentagon to his star project, a move that the Supreme Court backed as legitimate in a ruling last July.
Trump, who is running for re-election for a second term this November, has promised to build more than 500 miles of wall (805 kilometers) by early next year.