To pay for the border wall, the Department of Defense is diverting billions of dollars from Pentagon programs, including two Navy shipbuilding projects.
One year ago, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on the southern border, a move that has allowed his administration to defy Congress and divert billions of dollars from congressionally-funded military projects to the construction of a border wall.
In September, the Pentagon approved the reallocation of $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build a barrier spanning 175 miles along the southern border. On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that “the Secretary of Defense authorized support of $3.8B to build approximately 177 miles of fencing that will help to protect our borders.”
Among the projects affected this time around are two Navy shipbuilding projects: an America-class amphibious assault ship and a Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport Ship. The Pentagon is pulling $650 million and $261 million, respectively, from the projects.
Another $180 million are being pulled from a Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft project.
Large amphibious assault ships can carry Marines, as well as aircraft like the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. They can serve as light aircraft carriers, assets to augment the strained carrier force.
Construction of the large amphib is not expected to start for a few years. The Pentagon, a spokesman told Insider, Friday expects Congress to backfill the project before construction begins, theoretically making it like the funds never left.
There is no guarantee though that the programs will be backfilled.
News of the reprogramming follows the release of the Navy’s FY 2021 budget, which included a request for only eight ships, just six of which are warships. The service’s budget request saw a $4 billion drop in shipbuilding funds.
Lawmakers described the proposal as being inconsistent with plans for a 355-ship naval force.
“It’s what we can afford,” Rear Adm. Randy Crites, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for the budget, said on Monday.
Commenting on the planned reprogramming of military funds to the construction of a border wall, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said the administration is “doubling down on a bad policy.”
“The Trump Administration claims that every military decision they make is in support of the National Defense Strategy, and that their primary focus is the great power competition with Russia and China,” he said.
“But their policy simply does not match their rhetoric,” he continued. “Rather than investing in the procurement of critical platforms, this administration would rather dump another $3.8 billion into a wall on our southern border.”
Defending the move, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Friday, “Border security is national security, and national security is our mission.”
Other affected military projects include F-35s, MQ-9 Reaper drones, and various other types of equipment and assets.