Overnight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting $2.2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US

Overnight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting $2.2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US
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Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: Of the billions of dollars former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE took from the military to build his border wall, the Pentagon has $2.2 billion to put back into its coffers, the department announced Friday.

The funding, which has been taken from military construction funds, will go back into 66 military constructions projects in 16 countries, 11 U.S. states and three U.S. territories in fiscal 2021, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks wrote in a memo.

Among those is $79 million for an elementary school for children of military personnel in Germany, $94 million for another such school in Japan, $50 million for a Marine Corps machine gun range in Guam, $10 million for a missile field expansion at Fort Greely, Alaska, as well as numerous other schools, hangars, housing, shops and facilities.

Background: The Biden administration in late April announced it would cancel border wall projects that had been funded through the Defense Department and return the funds to the military construction projects from which they were pulled during the Trump administration.

But the Pentagon at that point wasn’t entirely sure how much money hadn’t already been spent that could be returned or in which projects the restored funding would go — questions that Friday’s announcement answers.

What about the drug funds?: In addition to the money from military construction funds, the Trump administration took several billion dollars from various accounts including weapons programs and personnel accounts and put it into the Pentagon’s counter-drug fund and then in turn used the counter-drug funding on the wall.

It does not appear the counter-drug money can be recouped.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said the funds ran through this year but had expired, adding the Defense Department "has no mechanism to recapture these funds made available for border barrier projects.”

And at DHS: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced separately it will redirect border wall funds appropriated directly to its agencies to repair infrastructure damaged by wall construction.

"In doing so, DHS will prioritize the remaining border barrier funds to address and remediate urgent life, safety, and environmental issues resulting from the previous administration’s border wall construction," reads a DHS release.

DHS said it will prioritize repairing breaches along the Rio Grande Valley Levee System in Texas, where the Trump administration excavated along the region's flood mitigation system.

A similar project will address soil erosion near San Diego, where DHS claims "improper compaction of soil and construction materials" along border wall construction sites is causing dangerous erosion that could affect border communities.


President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE will nominate Carlos Del Toro, a Cuban-born Navy veteran who runs a small IT firm in Virginia, to be secretary of the Navy, the White House announced Friday.

If confirmed, Del Toro would be the second Latino Navy secretary, after Eduardo Hidalgo in the Carter administration.

About him: Born in Havana, Del Toro and his family immigrated to the United States in 1962, and he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983.

His 22-year Navy career included becoming the commissioning commanding officer of the USS Bulkeley destroyer in 1998, as well as deploying to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. He later served in several senior-level appointments at the Pentagon, working on issues including budgeting, acquisition, space and legislation.

In 2004, Del Toro founded SBG Technology Solutions, a government contractor that provides IT and engineering services; he serves as its CEO and president.

Cheers: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) called Del Toro an “excellent selection” to lead the Navy and Marine Corps, which falls under the Department of the Navy.

“He has an impressive resume and exemplifies so many of the qualities that make the Navy and our nation great,” Reed said in a statement Friday. “We must strengthen the readiness and capacity of the Navy and Marine Corps. Carlos Del Toro is uniquely well-qualified to address these challenges and help steer the Navy and Marine Corps in the right direction.”

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Watchdog blasts government's handling of Afghanistan conflict | Biden asks Pentagon to look into mandatory vaccines | Congress passes new Capitol security bill GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships MORE (D-Va.), a committee member who’s known Del Toro for 20 years, said he “cannot imagine a better pick.”

“His patriotic Navy service, including as a surface ship commanding officer, and his successful entrepreneurial career make him the right choice to take the helm of the Navy at such a critical time,” Kaine said in a statement. “I am particularly proud that he will continue a tradition of great Virginians serving in this important role.


A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Friday aimed at bulking up a visa program for Afghans who helped U.S. troops amid increasingly urgent warnings about their safety as the U.S. military withdraws.

The bill from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) would add 20,000 visas to what’s known as the Special Immigrant Visa program, nearly doubling the number of visas Congress has authorized since 2014.

“The U.S. cannot renege on its commitment to the Afghans who’ve risked their lives to support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan,” Shaheen said in a statement. “The Special Immigrant Visa is a proven and well-vetted pathway to safety for these Afghans, but serious improvements are needed to uphold the integrity and improve the efficiency of the program. Increasing the number of authorized visas and removing cumbersome requirements that leave folks in limbo are essential to provide for those who’ve worked alongside our troops.”

Other changes: The bill also seeks to make it easier to apply for visas and process applications by changing the employment requirement for eligibility from two years to one year; postponing the required medical exam until the applicant and their family have arrived in the United States; removing the requirement for a credible sworn statement regarding the threat an applicant faces; and removing the requirement that employment must have been for “sensitive and trusted” activities.

The bill would also grant special immigrant status to spouses and children of murdered applicants.

“This legislation would make important updates to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program to help more vulnerable aides and their families escape before it is too late,” Wicker said in a statement. “The U.S. owes these courageous men and women a debt of gratitude — we cannot leave them behind.” 


The German Marshall Fund will host a virtual forum in conjunction with the 2021 NATO summit starting at 10 a.m. Brussels time, or 4 a.m. Eastern U.S. time. Speakers include NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauBiden administration stokes frustration over Canada The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Schumer moves ahead with likely-to-fail infrastructure vote US extends travel restrictions with Canada, Mexico MORE, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-Va.), Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsBottom line Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law Key Biden ally OK with dropping transit from infrastructure package MORE (D-Del.) and more. https://bit.ly/3cAjQhv


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