Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall

Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Navy chief resigns over aircraft carrier controversy | Trump replaces Pentagon IG | Hospital ship crew member tests positive for coronavirus More than 200 sailors aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt test positive for coronavirus Navy chief resigns amid uproar over handling of aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis MORE has approved building 20 more miles of barriers along the southern border, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Esper approved the Department of Homeland Security request Monday for the additional construction after contracts for the previously approved barriers cost less than expected, according to the documents.

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The Trump administration filed the notice of its decision to approve more construction as part of a lawsuit seeking to block the administration from using Pentagon funds to build President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE’s long-desired wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

A Pentagon official confirmed to The Hill that Esper had approved to the request.

Former acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January MORE had previously approved transferring $2.5 billion from various Pentagon accounts into a Defense Department counter-drug fund for to be used for about 135 miles of border barriers in El Paso, Texas, and Yuma and Tucson, Ariz.

After awarding contracts for seven projects, the Army Corps of Engineers determined that lower-than-expected contract costs could allow for another 20 miles of barrier, Kenneth Rapuano, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and global security, wrote in a declaration to the court.

As such, Esper approved using the remaining money from the original $2.5 billion for additional work in two projects in Yuma and one in Tuscon, Rapuano wrote.

Esper wrote in a memo dated Monday included in the court filings that he determined the requirements of the law governing Pentagon support for counter-drug activities was met and so “I have decided to authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use excess funds already provided for the construction of border barrier projects under section 284 for constructing up to 20 miles of 30-foot pedestrian fencing, constructing and improving roads, and installing lighting within Yuma Sector Projects #4 and 5 and Tucson Sector Project #4.”

The Pentagon unilaterally moved the $2.5 billion into the counter-drug fund without congressional approval, bucking decades of tradition. The move invoked the ire of lawmakers, with House Democrats now seeking to limit the Pentagon’s ability to move money between accounts. 

It also sparked the lawsuit. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration can start using the Pentagon funds on the wall while the litigation plays out.

Updated at 5:04 p.m.