WASHINGTON — This week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the diversion of $3.6 billion dollars from military construction projects to build the president’s long-promised border wall.
The move is now facing backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Many are calling on the Pentagon to restore funding to a number of these projects and are looking for alternative ways to provide the cash.
- President Trump went around Congress with national emergency declaration earlier this year to secure funding
- Funding cuts will affect Tyndall Air Force Base, damaged by Hurricane Michael
- More DC Bureau stories
The move comes after President Trump went around Congress and declared a national emergency earlier this year to secure the funding.
“A lot of the projects that are having funding removed are directly supporting military and their families,” said Mandy Smithberger with the Project on Government Oversight.
Those projects ranging from aircraft hangers, childcare, firing ranges are being gutted. Tyndall Air Force Base is the only military base in Florida facing cuts as a result of this decision.
The Panama City base is one of 127 projects that were planned in 23 states and around the world that is now on hold. The base will now lose out on $17 million dollars intended to fund a new fire rescue and crash station, less than a year after the facility suffered catastrophic damage during Hurricane Michael.
"In this case there are concerns that some of the funding that’s being taken is going to hurt hurricane recovery,” Smithberger explained, who serves as the organization's director of the Center for Defense Information.
List of military construction projects expected to lose funding as a result of the Department of Defense shifting funding to border wall construction, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019.
The recovery is still ongoing in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, where 10 projects in four locations will lose over $400 million, including funding for a power substation.
“It looks like disproportionately money is being taken away from those areas of the United States that don’t have members of Congress who are able to vote and represent them,” Smithberger said.
“I think what we are going to see is that Congress is going to restore money for a number of these projects because they are key to their constituents, so they are going to find the money," Smithberger went on. "But it raises concerns about where that money is going to come from and who is going to be hurt as a result,” Smithberger explained.
The Senate put money in its defense funding bill to replace the funding pulled for the border, but the House declined to do so. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) was one of the 12 Republican Senators who voted against the President’s emergency declaration, stating that he was opposed to cutting funds from military facilities. Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida) voted in support of the President’s action, although he is now stating his intention to secure funding for Tyndall Air Force Base.
“Taking care of Florida’s military members, veterans and their families has always been Senator Scott’s top priority,” Senator Scott’s office wrote in a statement to Spectrum News.
“Senator Scott is committed to making sure Tyndall has everything it needs to rebuild following Hurricane Michael and fought for billions of dollars in funding in both the disaster relief bill passed and signed into law in June and the National Defense Authorization Act."