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The Wall to be Funded by the Pentagon
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The Wall to be Funded by the Pentagon

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 11, 2019

Members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee pressed defense officials Tuesday about their plans for the money for the border wall, asking what programs, if any, will be delayed or abandoned with a potential funding shift that could occur if the department decides to authorize it.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded the first two contracts that will use military funds to pay for the construction of additional fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of President Trump's emergency declaration.

The two contracts awarded Tuesday are worth an estimated $976 million and cover three separate projects totaling 57 miles of border fencing in New Mexico and Arizona.

When Trump declared a national emergency on immigration at the southern border, it opened up new options for funding the wall through reprogramming. The current proposal, in the Pentagon's fiscal 2020 budget request, includes $7.2 billion in military construction funding, including $3.6 billion to "backfill" programs affected by the shift and an additional $3.6 billion to fund future projects affected by the wall construction.

The money for the wall comes from funds the Department of Defense reprogrammed under a law that allows it to build roads and fences to stem the flow of drugs in smuggling corridors along the border. It's a part of the estimated $8 billion Trump made available for construction with his Feb. 15 emergency declaration.

Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert McMahon said the exact projects that will be defunded or delayed in order to build the wall have not been chosen because acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has not decided whether to reprogram the money.

McMahon said Shanahan is reviewing a list of proposed construction projects provided to the Pentagon by the Homeland Security Department and, based on the scope of those projects, is "identifying military construction projects that could be used as funding sources."

However, lawmakers on the House side have proposed stripping the Pentagon of its ability to reprogram funds to thwart the shifting of funds to pay for 57 miles of border fence, Military wrote.

Democratic Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Tuesday that the panel did not approve the proposed shift in Pentagon expenditure. Any decision to go ahead anyway could prompt Congress to create new restrictions that could impact the Pentagon in the future.

Asked whether his plan was to move ahead regardless, Shanahan said: “Yes, it is.”

“There are going to be consequences. I understand the position of the committees. I also have a standing legal order from the commander-in-chief,” he said.

In February, Trump announced that he plans to use more than $3 billion in unspent military construction funds to advance the wall project, over the objections of Congress. Pentagon officials have promised they will replace that money in future years, but lawmakers would have to approve such a move.

Trump has also suggested that if his wall proposal does not receive support, he could indefinitely use military members to fill in gaps in border security.

About 5,000 military personnel are currently deployed to the border mission, according to Military Times. Of those, about 3,000 are active-duty troops and 2,100 are National Guard members. The number has fluctuated by several hundred individuals over the last six months.

In New Mexico, the fencing will replace vehicle barriers with 18- to 30-foot-tall pedestrian fencing west of Santa Teresa running through the Columbus port of entry.

The area falls under the Border Patrol's El Paso Sector, which covers all of New Mexico and parts of far West Texas.

Nearly $240 million in military construction funds for projects at Fort Bliss and in New Mexico will be diverted for border security construction. The bulk of funds, $789 million were awarded to SLSCO Ltd. of Galveston, Texas. That company will replace 46 miles of vehicle barriers along the New Mexico border with bollard fencing. The upgraded fencing construction is slated for completion in October 2020, according to the Pentagon.

SLSCO Ltd. is already under contract to build 14 miles of border levee walls in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. In February, crews began to clear the land to erect the new barriers. As of early April, construction had yet to start, although U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was imminent.

The company is also replacing 14 miles of secondary fencing in San Diego, Calif., including at the site where Trump's border-wall prototypes were demolished in late February.

On April 8, the White House announced the replacement of an inconsistent 40-year-old barrier made of surplus corrugated steel landing mats with the newly constructed 30-foot wall in Calexico, CA.

A new $73 million bollard wall along a 20-mile portion of the U.S.-Mexico border will replace existing fencing in the Santa Teresa, NM area. Santa Teresa-area construction of what U.S. Border Patrol officials called the "president's border wall" began in April 2018. The construction replaces existing posts that serve as vehicle barriers in the area. The wall will stand 18 to 30 feet tall in different areas, depending on the terrain. "It is going help maintain a secure border. It is going to establish the operational control that the president has mandated," El Paso Border Patrol Sector Chief Aaron Hull said when construction was officially announced.

Border Patrol officials said the fencing will reduce illegal entries, but environmental activists have raised concerns about the structure's impact on wildlife.

In a story titled, “Rio Grande Valley Landowners Plan To Fight Border Wall Expansion,” NPR reported that more than 570 Texas private landowners have started to receive “right-of-entry” letters from the federal government seeking to survey their land for possible border wall construction – the latest in a growing string of reminders about the consequences of Republican acquiescence to Trump’s emergency declaration.

The second Pentagon contract awarded Tuesday by the Army Corps of Engineers was to Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman, MT. The company received a $187 million contract to build 11 miles of fencing in three separate segments along the Yuma County border in southwestern Arizona.

The first stretch will replace 5 miles of vehicle barriers along the Colorado River with the 18-foot-tall fencing. The second stretch will replace 2 miles of wire-mesh fencing farther south along the Colorado River. The third stretch will be 4 miles along the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range in the eastern portion of the county.

All three portions are scheduled to be completed by September 2020.

Barnard Construction previously had received a $172 million contract to replace 14 miles of outdated landing-mat fencing along the San Luis port of entry with newer, 30-foot bollards. Construction is to begin this April, El Paso Times wrote.

Author: USA Really