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Senators Demand Answers Regarding Plans to Raid Military Projects to Fund ‘Trump’s Wall’

September 4, 2019, 8:11 AM HST
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US Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, led a group of Democratic appropriators in calling on the Department of Defense to provide Congress with details of its decision to raid military construction funding to pay for President Donald Trump’s “ineffective border wall,” a press release announced on Sept. 4, 2019.

“We are opposed to this decision and the damage it will cause to our military and the relationship between Congress and the Department of Defense,” the senators wrote. “We also expect a full justification of how the decision to cancel was made for each project selected and why a border wall is more important to our national security and the wellbeing of our service members and their families than these projects.”

In their letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the senators underscored the harm that diverting funding would cause to military readiness and our national security.

The Schatz-Leahy-Durbin letter was signed by every Democratic member of the Military Construction and Defense Appropriations Subcommittees, including U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

The full text of the letter:

Dear Secretary Esper:

We write in response to your notification pursuant to 10 U.S.C §2808 authorizing the use of unobligated military construction funds for permanent barrier construction along the southern border. We are opposed to this decision and the damage it will cause to our military and the relationship between Congress and the Department of Defense.

As we have previously written, the decision to take funds from critical military construction projects is unjustified and will have lasting impacts on our military readiness. It also is contrary to the Congressional intent for section 2808 and will force actions to limit flexibility and more strictly define how this authority, and others, can be used. Our working relationship, and the inherent trust contained within, has been further degraded and will necessarily result in stricter controls on funding appropriated.

We ask that you provide the following information, which is consistent with previous notifications under this authority and in accordance with DoD Financial Management Regulation guidance:

• DD 1391 forms providing alternatives considered and reasons for their non-selection;

• An explanation of when the requirement was identified and how it was planned or programmed for execution;

• A complete description of the source of funds to be used for the project(s), including the specific reasons as to why the funding is available and associated notifications under 10 U.S.C. 2853;

• An expected timeline and acquisition method for the border wall project(s); and

• Rationale as to why these project(s) should not be deferred to a future budget request.

We also expect a full justification of how the decision to cancel was made for each project selected and why a border wall is more important to our national security and the wellbeing of our service members and their families than these projects. We look forward to a prompt and thorough response in order to begin to restore a functional working relationship.

Sincerely,

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