House Dems express 'deepening concern' over plans to take $7.2B from Pentagon for border wall

House Dems express 'deepening concern' over plans to take $7.2B from Pentagon for border wall

A group of House Democrats is “strongly” urging 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 not to redirect another $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding 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 southern border wall.

“We write to express our continued and deepening concern regarding reports that the administration is once more planning to divert billions of dollars of military funds to the construction of additional fencing and other barriers on the southwest border,” the 31 Democrats wrote to Esper in a letter obtained by The Hill ahead of its public release.

“There is clearly no requirement for the use of military resources to construct a border wall,” they added in the five-page letter.

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The letter was organized by House Armed Services Committee members Reps. Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownDemocrat refuses to yield House floor, underscoring tensions on coronavirus vote Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings endorses Biden ahead of Florida primary Buttigieg, Klobuchar face uphill battle in pivot to diverse states MORE (D-Md.), Gil CisnerosGilbert (Gil) Ray CisnerosMORE (D-Calif.), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarTexas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order 20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order Hispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging MORE (D-Texas) and Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillBiden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Elbow bumps, Spock salutes: How Congress is dealing with coronavirus Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — Trump, Congress struggle for economic deal amid coronavirus threat | Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol | Coronavirus emerges as 2020 flashpoint MORE (D-N.J.).

The letter is the latest from Democrats in Congress following reports last week saying Trump would again tap Pentagon funding for the wall after lawmakers allocated less than he requested for his signature project.

As first reported by The Washington Post, Trump plans to take $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's counterdrug programs and $3.7 billion from military construction funding.

Pentagon officials told reporters last week they had received a request from the Department of Homeland Security for about 270 miles of barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border, but said they could not yet provide a dollar figure.

The additional $7.2 billion expected to be taken this year comes after Trump tapped $2.5 billion in Pentagon counterdrug funds and $3.6 billion in military construction funds last year.

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In their letter, Democrats said a “significant portion” of what was taken last year has yet to be used, including $1.8 billion in military construction funds.

If another $7.2 billion is taken, bringing the total to $13.3 billion, they added, that would equal “more than the full unit acquisition cost of a Ford class aircraft carrier, the entire research and development cost for the Columbia class of submarines, or the $10.6 billion to purchase 98 F-35s in FY2020.”

The Democrats also highlighted testimony from defense officials to the House Armed Services Committee that they were “not aware of any terrorist threat” on the southern border and that most of the U.S. military forces deployed there are “engineers and cops.”

They added that they are “confounded” at how the Pentagon can be considering diverting resources to the border given the challenges the United States faces across the globe.

“These actions come as we continue to face diverse, complex and pressing security threats around the globe while trying to modernize our military and restore readiness,” they wrote in the letter, sent to the Pentagon on Friday night. “The lack of a strategy for the Middle East has led us to significantly heightened tensions with Iran, China and Russia continue to attempt to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model, North Korea remains an agitator in the Pacific, and we continue to support our allies and partners in the fight against terrorism.”

Further, they added, the transfers to the border “run counter” to the beefed-up defense budgets Congress passed in recent years to rebuild the military.

“For all the above reasons we strongly urge you to reconsider before making any decision to redirect Department of Defense resources for the construction of additional border wall,” they said.

Should money be transferred to the border, the lawmakers asked Esper for an official form justifying each project, a detailed explanation for how each project directly supports the military and the specific dates the department plans to obligate funds, award contracts and start and finish construction.

The lawmakers also asked for a full list of military installations that will be affected by the funding transfers, the effect the transfers have on the volume and seizure of drugs at the border, how much money transferred in 2019 has been spent as of Jan. 1 and the spending plan for funds transferred in 2019.

“We look forward to continuing to work with you to strengthen our national defense, to support our warfighters and to ensure we are realizing the most value from each taxpayer dollar appropriated to the Department of Defense,” they concluded.