WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s plan to shift $7.2 billion from the Pentagon budget to pay for his planned wall on the U.S.-Mexico border is “playing politics with the nation’s defense,” the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Monday.
“It is bad policy, bad governing, and bad for our military,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in a statement.
“Each year we hear from our leaders at the Pentagon that they don’t have enough money,” Smith said. “If that is in fact true, then how can the president steal billions more from the Department of Defense without seriously undermining our national security?”
The Washington Post first reported on the Trump administration’s plan to divert funds from the Department of Defense toward border wall construction.
It is the second time in less than six months that the White House has proposed using military money to pay for the wall. The Pentagon shelved 127 military construction projects worth $3.6 billion in September 2019 in favor of “construction or augmentation of barriers along 175 miles of the southern U.S. border.”
So far, just over 100 miles of new barriers have been added to the wall.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday the Pentagon is prepared to help the Department of Homeland Security pay for the wall. “The first priority of the DOD is protection of the homeland,” Esper said. Because the border is a security issue, he said, the Defense Department remains committed to help.
Trump’s latest move to shift Defense money is an attempt to fulfill a campaign promise during an election, said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.
“The looming elections are making this urgent,” Nowrasteh said. “Trump is desperate because he has failed to convince the Congress to do this. So, the closer we get to elections I think the more actions like this we will see out of the administration.”