WASHINGTON: US Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the reallocation of $1.5 billion Friday to fund President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico, according to the Pentagon.
The move follows a decision by the Department of Defense in March to transfer $1bn from Army personnel budget accounts to fund the wall.
The money will go towards fence replacement on four projects in and around Tucson, Arizona and El Centro, Texas totalling just under 80 miles.
“The funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes and revised requirements. This transfer of funds will neither affect military preparedness nor impact service member benefits,” Pentagon spokesperson Tom Crosson said in a statement.
The largest portion of the funds, or $604 million, is coming from the Afghan Security Forces Fund, according to the Associated Press, with the rest from Air Force programs, a retirement account, a chemical demilitarisation program and military funds for Pakistan.
Shanahan confirmed that a significant portion of the reallocated funds came from those earmarked for Afghan forces but said: “we found ways to do this without having any impact on readiness”.
Trump moved to build his long-promised border wall through an executive order earlier this year after failing to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from Congress for the barrier’s construction, having shut down Congress for the longest stretch in history over his demand.
Opponents of Trump’s executive order have warned that it sets a dangerous precedent and violates the Constitution’s delegation of funding powers to the legislative branch.
In a letter to Shanahan, every Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies opposed the decision.
“Once again, the Department of Defense has ignored decades of precedent and cooperation with Congress in carrying out a transfer of funds without regard to any consultation with the Appropriations Committee,” they wrote.
“We are dismayed that the Department has chosen to prioritize a political campaign promise over the disaster relief needs of our service members, given the finite reprogramming authority available.”