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Impact Unclear of Using Army Funds for Border Wall

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Customs and Border Protection Office
Thursday, February 28, 2019

Using military construction funds to pay for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border should have little impact on military members and their families, defense officials told Congress.

They were unable, though, to provide details because final decisions have not been made by the Trump administration.

The administration has said it intends to use emergency authority to shift money appropriated by Congress for future construction projects to pay for border wall construction.

“There are no cancellations. This is simply a deferral of capability,” Robert H. McMahon, assistant defense secretary for sustainment, told the House Armed Services Committee panel on military construction. 

McMahon said the Defense Department and the services are still reviewing construction plans and funding. The review is intended to protect money for service priorities, he said.

There is nothing unusual about the Defense Department having unspent construction funding, McMahon said. The Pentagon has about $21.6 billion unspent on construction, an accumulation of five years of surplus funds. 

McMahon said there are many reasons for construction delays, including design issues or securing the right contractor to do the work. These scheduling issues are the reason construction appropriations remain in effect for five years, he said.

Military projects most likely to be delayed are “those [that] pose no operational or readiness risks,” he said.

Defense and service officials have also pledged to protect funding for projects related to housing of troops and families.

Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the border to gather information and investigate potential applications for DoD funding.

Discussions following the visit are ongoing this week, but no decisions have been made.