Pentagon’s $1.5B wall transfer to include pulls from intercontinental missile, spy plane upgrades

The Pentagon’s move last week to transfer $1.5 billion from defense accounts to President Trump’s promised border wall will pull from funds including those meant to upgrade Air Force surveillance planes and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, according to Defense Department documents.

The documents, released by the Pentagon’s comptroller office, reveals from where the Department of Defense (DOD) intends to take the money to help build more than 80 miles of border wall.

{mosads}“This reprogramming action provides funding in support of higher priority items, based on unforeseen military requirements, than those for which originally appropriated; and is determined to be necessary in the national interest,” the document states.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the transfer, announced on Friday, citing a need to handle the “crisis along our southwest border” and a need to “deny drug smuggling activities.”

“Funds are required to provide support for counter-drug activities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),” the document adds. DHS has identified areas along the southern border being used as drug smuggling corridors, “and determined that the construction of additional physical barriers and roads … is necessary in order to impede and deny drug smuggling activities.”

The reprogramming has brought the ire of Democratic lawmakers, who have accused the administration of going around congressional authority. Several have threatened the Pentagon that it could lose reprogramming authority in the future.

The $1.5 billion is pulled from two separate areas — about $818.5 million from accounts filled under the fiscal 2019 Defense Appropriations Act, and $681.5 million from two Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, meant to pay for war efforts.

The OCO money includes $604 million from the Afghan Security Forces Fund, meant to assist the Afghan military, and $77.5 million from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), used to reimburse coalition partners for support to U.S. military operations. Both pots were pulled from to assist in the nearly 18-year-long Afghanistan War.

The other chunk of money comes from a variety of areas within DOD, including missile procurement and upgrades, aircraft modifications and service retirement systems.

About $24.3 million will be taken from the Air Force’s Minuteman III ICBM program, which needs updates to its launch control center.

“Funds are available due to a slip in the production schedule,” according to the document.

An additional $52.6 million came from savings negotiated on air-launch cruise missiles and Predator Hellfire missiles.

Another $57 million was freed up due to “schedule delays” for upgrading the E-3 Sentry, an airborne early warning and control aircraft. The plane provides surveillance and communications to fighter jets.

The Pentagon also intends to reprogram $209.7 million designated for an Air Force space vehicle launch.

“The next possible launched Space Vehicle host is outside the 24-month planning cycle, therefore these funds are early to need.”

About $223.8 million will come from the Pentagon’s Blended Retirement System, which was unveiled in January 2018 but has received “fewer than planned opt-ins from the legacy retirement system.”

Another $251 million will come from a program to destroy chemical agents and munitions. The comptroller found that dollars available from this fiscal year and last are “more than sufficient” to cover funding needs, and the transfer “does not inhibit the ability to pursue efforts/technologies to accelerate the destruction of the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile.”   

Last week’s transfer is in addition to the $1 billion the Pentagon moved from counter-drug funding in March to pay for border barriers. Trump in February also reprogrammed $3.6 billion in military construction funds for the wall as part of his national emergency declaration.

Tags Border wall Defense funding Department of Defense Donald Trump Immigration Patrick Shanahan Pentagon
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