The Pentagon notified Congress on Monday that it had transferred $1 billion in military personnel funding to construct President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a memo addressed to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, said he’d authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and building 57 miles of fencing along the southern border, as well as improving roads in Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, CNN reported.
Democratic lawmakers were swift in their rebuke of the Pentagon chief’s move.
In a letter to Shanahan on Monday, a group of Democratic Senators led by Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Richard Durbin of Illinois said they “strongly” objected to the transfer of funds, which they described as a violation of congressional appropriations.
“We strongly object to both the substance of the funding transfer, and to the Department implementing the transfer without seeking the approval of the congressional defense committees and in violation of provisions in the defense appropriation itself,” the senators wrote. “As a result, we have serious concerns that the Department has allowed political interference and pet projects to come ahead of many near-term, critical readiness issues facing our military.”
Noting that the Pentagon requests “billions in mid-year transfers” every year to address “unexpected shortfalls in paying our troops, providing training, maintaining their equipment and accelerating new technologies,” the lawmakers said the reprogramming of funds “constitutes a dollar-for-dollar theft from other readiness needs of our Armed Forces.”
President Trump declared a national emergency last month in an effort to bypass Congress and divert billions of dollars in defense funds to build his long-touted border wall.
The New York Times noted that the Pentagon’s recent transfer was made without using the president’s declaration.
The Defense Department informed Congress last week that hundreds of military construction projects may be cut or delayed to fund the wall’s construction.