Top lawmakers have criticized the Trump administration after it announced it would shift nearly $4 billion from the military budget toward building some 177 miles of fencing across the U.S.-Mexico border, in efforts to address drug-smuggling activities.
The funding move was announced on Feb. 13 by the Department of Defense (DOD).
The top Democrat and Republican lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee last week criticized the move.
“The reprogramming announced today is contrary to Congresss constitutional authority, and I believe that it requires Congress to take action,” said committee ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) in a statement following the announcement. “I will be working with my colleagues to determine the appropriate steps to take.”
Thornberry said that the move “undermines the principle of civilian control of the military and is in violation of the separation of powers within the Constitution.”
He added that the walls funding “must come through the Department of Homeland Security rather than diverting critical military resources that are needed and in law.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) accused President Donald Trump of being “obsessed” with fulfilling a campaign promise “at the expense of our national security.”
Meanwhile, a joint letter (pdf) addressed to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday, stated: “As was the case last year, the Department of Defense did not request, and the Congress did not provide, any defense funds for border wall construction.
“This repeated maneuver to transfer funds once again is in contrast to the long-established processes involving consultation with the defense oversight committees of Congress on reprogrammings and transfers.”
A request was sent to Congress last Thursday, stating that the money is “required to provide support for counter-drug activities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”
“DHS has identified areas along the southern border of the United States that are being used by individuals, groups, and transnational criminal organizations as drug smuggling corridors, and determined that the construction of additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border is necessary in order to impede and deny drug smuggling activities,” reads the request, signed by acting DOD comptroller Elaine McCusker.
The request (pdf), divided into two parts, seeks $2.2 billion to be diverted from defense appropriations, and $1.63 billion from the Pentagons Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. The OCO fund is used in military operations against the ISIS terrorist group.
Diverting money from the defense appropriations would affect funding for two F-35 fighters, eight Reaper drones, four Air Force C-130 transport aircraft, two Marine V-22 Osprey helicopters, amphibious ships, National Guard equipment, and Army trucks.