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

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHouse war powers sponsor expects to take up Senate version of resolution Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall MORE (D-Va.) on Friday pressed acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanEsper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Defense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall MORE for details on how military families would be impacted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' 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.