Hurricane-hit bases among those losing funds to Trump wall

Hurricane-ravaged bases in Florida, North Carolina and Puerto Rico are among the military sites that will lose funds because of the Trump administration’s decision to redirect $3.6 billion from military construction projects to a wall on the Mexican border.

The Pentagon on Wednesday announced the specific cuts that will take place because of the redirection of funds, though it cast the changes as delaying projects, not ending them.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’ve got an emergency on the southwest border that we need to address. All of these projects are important,” a senior defense official told reporters at the Pentagon.

They added that the Defense Department will work with Congress to replenish or “backfill” funding to finish the projects but admitted that such a move wasn’t guaranteed.

"We’re very focused right now on working with Congress to get the backfill that we need," they said. "If there’s things that progress that don’t work out, we’ll adjust and we’ll plan as we need to."

The GOP-controlled Senate has already agreed to fund the deferred projects in its annual National Defense Authorization Act, but the Democratic-led House said it will not do the same in its version of the bill.

The official acknowledged that, with this divide, the department has “a lot of work ahead of us.” 

A total of 127 military construction projects are being put on hold due to the administration’s decision, half of which are overseas and half of which are planned U.S. projects. 

The list, released a day after Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump marks Memorial Day at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Fort McHenry Pentagon charts its own course on COVID-19, risking Trump's ire Birx: 'I'm very concerned when people go out and don't maintain social distancing' MORE formally approved the decision to divert billions away from the construction plans to pay for 175 miles of barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border, includes projects across 23 states, 19 countries and three territories.

About $1.1 billion would be cut from projects in the continental United States, while $700 million would come from efforts in U.S. territories and $1.8 billion from bases overseas.

Most targeted are those that would tackle less pressing needs, including parking areas, roads and a dining facility, but the list also includes planned schools, target ranges, a missile field expansion, maintenance facilities, a crash rescue station and a cyber operations facility.

Impacted at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida is a $17 million crash rescue station project.

Two projects worth a combined $41 million at Camp Lejeune, N.C., will also be deferred, as will 10 projects worth more than $402.5 million across five Puerto Rico bases.

Tyndall, Camp Lejeune and the Puerto Rico bases were all devastated in hurricanes in the past two years and are still rebuilding billions of dollars' worth of damage.

The senior defense official stressed that the projects on the list for the three locations “are not going to be delayed because of how far out into the future they are” and that cleanup efforts at the bases are still funded and ongoing.  

The official said that earlier in the day, the Pentagon finished notifying lawmakers of the specific projects in their districts that will be ransacked to free up the billions of dollars as well as the governments of countries that house U.S. bases abroad.

The list includes projects in states represented by Republican senators who voted in support of Trump’s emergency declaration.

Those include Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Lawmakers ask for briefings on Chinese targeting of coronavirus research MORE (N.C.), whose state has three projects on the list worth a combined $80 million; Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Where Biden, Trump stand in key swing states Abrams announces endorsements in 7 Senate races MORE (Ariz.), with one $30 million project at Fort Huachuca; Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans debate life under COVID-19 risks The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Democratic leaders say Trump testing strategy is 'to deny the truth' about lack of supplies MORE (Ky.), whose state had a planned nearly $63 million middle school at Fort Campbell; Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip For safety and economic recovery, Congress must prioritize cannabis banking GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (Co.), with an $8 million project at Peterson Air Force Base; Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhy do Americans worry about North Korea? Senate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief Abrams announces endorsements in 7 Senate races MORE (S.C.), whose state had a planned fire station replacement for $11 million; and John CornynJohn CornynBottom line Five questions about the next COVID-19 relief package Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting MORE (Texas), whose state had two projects worth $48 million that will now be deferred.

All six lawmakers are up for reelection in 2020.

Lawmakers on Wednesday voiced their displeasure with the administration’s decision, though the GOP was hesitant to call on Trump to find alternative means to pay for his promised wall.

“We continue to face a very real crisis at the southern border. I regret that the president has been forced to divert funding for our troops to address the crisis,” House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryBoosting military deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region Overnight Defense: Pentagon memo warns pandemic could go until summer 2021 | Watchdog finds Taliban violence is high despite US deal | Progressive Dems demand defense cuts Progressives demand defense budget cuts amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Texas) said in a statement.

Esper, who is traveling to Stuttgart, Germany; London; and Paris this week, sidestepped questions on the topic when asked by reporters traveling with him.

He declined to comment on concerns from lawmakers on construction projects in their states being sidelined, citing ongoing talks with lawmakers.