Kaine asks Shanahan if military families would be hurt by moving $3.6B for border wall

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Dem senator plans amendment to restrict military action against Iran Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info MORE (D-Va.) on Friday pressed acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation Iran slams US troop deployment: 'Extremely dangerous' for Middle East peace Overnight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess MORE for details on how military families would be impacted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE's plan to steer about $3.6 billion in military construction funds to a border wall.

In a letter to Shanahan, Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, requested a list of military projects that will lose funding as a result of the move, and how it would affect military families.

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Kaine pointed to Defense Department testimony in April 2018 in which officials noted that a $116 billion maintenance backlog had left military families living in unsafe conditions.

“I am concerned that a project that the President stated would be paid for by Mexico will now be borne by military servicemembers and their families, as they will be forced to remain in ‘poor’ or ‘failing’ conditions,” Kaine said in the letter. 

“The safety and well-being of our forces and their families is the supreme responsibility of every commander in the military; it should be no different for the Commander-in-Chief.”

Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in order to bypass Congress and steer roughly $8 billion to build barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The president’s move — announced from the Rose Garden shortly after he signed the declaration — includes plans to redirect the Pentagon funds after legislation from Congress fell far short of his demands for $5.7 billion in wall funding.

“Some of the generals think this is more important,” Trump said when asked how he could guarantee to service members and their families that none of the money steered for a wall would take away from other pressing needs.

“I was speaking to a couple of them. They think this is far more important than what they were going to use it for. I said ‘what were you going to use it for?’ And I won’t go into details but [it] didn’t sound too important to me," Trump added.

The declaration comes days after a series of Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on Wednesday where witnesses testified on the poor living conditions on U.S. bases

Congress in the fiscal 2019 defense budget authorized and appropriated more than $11 billion towards military construction projects, to include family housing and overseas contingency operations, but Trump’s move would divert nearly one-third of that. 

Kaine asked Shanahan to provide a list of all projects affected by the movement of military construction funds, as well as “an assessment of the risk to servicemembers if these projects are terminated,” and “the potential for legal action due to breach of contract.”

Trump, in a separate executive action, also plans to repurpose about $2.5 billion from the Defense Department’s drug-interdiction program.