(Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
A total of $32 million for security improvements to the back gate of Marine Corps Base Hawaii and an Air Force training facility at Hickam Field is being diverted for President Donald Trump’s border wall, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. Ed Case, a Hawaii Democrat, criticized the president’s announcement of a planned diversion of $3.6 billion in already-appropriated funds for high-priority military projects to build a border wall that Case noted was neither authorized nor funded by Congress.
“This attempted raid on already-funded projects by the president is not only a subversion of the authority of Congress, but will compromise military readiness and security and lower morale across the Department of Defense,” said Case, who was informed Wednesday of the Hawaii project cuts.
The Defense Department on Wednesday released a list of the projects to be cut, with $1.8 billion slashed from projects outside the United States, and $1.8 billion from projects in the United States.
A total of 127 military projects are being halted, with New York receiving $160 million in cuts, and Alaska $32 million, including a stop to a missile field expansion.
Guam will see a halt to about $257 million in approved projects, while Puerto Rico would lose $403 million in military construction.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, also a Hawaii Democrat, said $26.5 million for the Marine Corps base was appropriated for a new perimeter gate for enhanced security to meet anti-terrorism and force protection requirements to protect Marines.
“By defunding a key security project at Kaneohe Bay, one the Marine Corps told Congress was a a high priority, this president has made clear that the safety of our service members and their families is less important than his wall,” Schatz said in a news release.
Schatz said another $5.5 million in diverted funding was for Air Force support and aeromedical units at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for classroom space, nursing service space and aerospace medicine packaging needs of the Air Force Reserve.
“Our men and women in uniform took an oath to put their lives on the line in service to our country,” said U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a third member of Hawaii’s Democratic congressional delegation. “The least they deserve in return is a commitment to provide the resources they need to fulfill their duty, and I will continue to fight to see this funding restored.”
On Feb. 15 the president declared a national emergency at the southern border requiring the use of the armed forces. The Defense Department will undertake 11 border military construction projects to create 175 miles of barrier, officials said.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the 11 projects will “deter illegal entry … They will reduce the demand for DOD personnel and assets at the locations where the barriers are constructed.”
A Pentagon official said the projects identified for deferral did not include family housing, barracks or dormitory projects and did not include projects that had contracts already awarded.
Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller Elaine McCusker said if Congress were to backfill, or again fund the projects, they would still proceed.
But both Case and Schatz chaffed at that idea.
“The Congress did not authorize $3.6 billion to pay for a border wall. I support continuing our evaluation of whether and to what extent an additional border wall should be built and funded as part of responsibly securing our borders. But Congress will not enable this move by appropriating new funds to backfill the projects now defunded,” Case said in a release.
Schatz, meanwhile, said he will “strongly oppose” any request by the Trump administration to provide additional money for the projects it intends to defund.
“The American people cannot be asked to foot the bill a second time for projects that this administration has decided to funnel money away from to pay for a wall that will do nothing to end the humanitarian crisis on the southern border or protect our national security,” Schatz said.
Case noted that the question of whether Trump has exceeded his authority is currently pending in federal courts of appeal after the federal district court ordered an injunction against the president’s earlier effort.