(WASHINGTON, D.C.)--Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) joined House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), Congressman Gil Cisneros (CA-39), Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and 26 lawmakers in sending a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper about the administration’s plan to divert billions of dollars in military funds to the construction of additional fencing and barriers along the U.S.- Mexico border.
Last year, a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of more than 300 Senators and Representatives voted to terminate the Administration’s unjustified national emergency declaration. Available data and Department of Defense officials both confirm that there is no significant national security threat at America’s southwest border. Congress has met the President’s request for additional funds over the last three budget cycles by appropriating $4.5 billion for barriers and fencing. Nevertheless in FY19, the Administration diverted $6.1 billion of Department of Defense funding for border wall construction and is reportedly redirecting an additional $7.2 billion in FY20.
“Despite the significant resources appropriated by Congress for border security, the Administration still decided to circumvent Congress,” the lawmakers wrote. “The military construction projects being delayed or cancelled will only add to the over $116 billion maintenance backlog of projects, directly impacting our military readiness and the well-being of our military families.”
Many of the projects impacted by this decision would have improved the quality of life for military service members and their families. Updating classrooms, clinics and other facilities used by troops and their loved ones is important to both morale and safety. The lawmakers asked the Department of Defense to reconsider its decision which would cause lasting harm to the United States’ ability to build and sustain readiness, meet the security challenges and honor the sacrifices of our armed forces and their families.
“Military families are paying the price for President Trump’s ineffective vanity project,” said Congressman Anthony Brown. “In cancelling hundreds of projects across the country, including child care centers in my district, the Trump Administration is failing to live up to the promises we make to our troops and their families. Mexico isn’t paying for this wall, the burden is falling on these brave families.”
“It’s outrageous that the President is stealing money from our troops and military families, again, for his ineffective, wasteful wall. We currently face a diverse array of threats around the world and, as a former Navy supply officer, I know that our military commanders are fighting for this funding in order to face those threats. We cannot take money away from our military leaders to pay for a vanity project that does nothing for our security,” said Congressman Gil Cisneros. “Despite Congress having the power of the purse, the Administration has continued to turn a blind eye to the roles and responsibilities laid out in our Constitution. Their actions only jeopardize our military readiness and take resources away from our troops serving our nation.”
“As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have worked closely and carefully with military leaders to ensure appropriate resourcing for our military. It is simply unacceptable that the President would then rob these resources for a second time to carry out a campaign promise, particularly from funds allocated for critical military construction projects that would improve conditions for military families at bases around the country and abroad,” said Congresswoman Veronica Escobar. “Military families deserve better from their Commander in Chief.”
“I firmly believe we can secure our borders without stripping funds from programs critical to military readiness and military families,” said Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. “Congress passed record-level funding for border security in a bipartisan vote last year, and this plan to divert necessary military funding undermines the safety and mission of our armed forces.”
Signers include; Reps. Don Beyer (VA-08), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Andre Carson (IN-07), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Elaine Luria (VA-02), James McGovern (MA-02), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Darren Soto (FL-09), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Filemon Vela (TX-34) and Peter Welch (VT-AL).
Read the full letter below.
Dear Secretary Esper:
We write to express our continued and deepening concern regarding reports that the Administration is once more planning to divert billions of dollars of military funds to the construction of additional fencing and other barriers on the southwest border.
There is clearly no requirement for the use of military resources to construct a border wall. The Administration’s use of the national emergency declaration and the military to address the humanitarian situation does not properly reflect the current environment. The number of apprehensions over the last two years remains lower than any two years of the George W. Bush administration. In addition, the number of apprehensions and individuals deemed ‘inadmissible’ has decreased by 30% in the first three months of Fiscal Year 2020. These data points do not justify the declaration of a national emergency or the use of military funding for the construction of a border wall. Members of Congress agree in a bipartisan and bicameral manner, with more than 300 Senators and Representatives voting last year to terminate the emergency.
Department of Defense military and civilian leaders share this perspective and agree there is not a national security threat on the border. Last year at a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Department of Defense witnesses confirmed the lack of a significant threat when they stated they were “not aware of any terrorist threat” on the southwest border. Additionally, the witnesses stated the forces deployed to the border were “engineers and cops”. Their testimony makes it clear that managing the border is better suited for the Department of Homeland Security, local law enforcement, and humanitarian aid workers, not the Department of Defense.
Despite these assessments from senior defense leaders, the administration continues to wastefully and irresponsibly reallocate defense funds to the border wall even as Congress has dramatically increased funding for border security. In the decade prior to the 2016 election, Congress appropriated nearly $2.5 billion to the Department of Homeland Security to construct primary barriers on the southwest border. In the past three budget cycles, Congress has met the President’s request for additional funds by appropriating $4.5 billion for barriers and fencing, a funding rate six times higher than the average of the previous ten years.
Despite the significant resources appropriated by Congress for border security, the Administration still decided to circumvent Congress and allocate $6.1 billion of Department of Defense funding for border wall construction. Our understanding is that a significant portion of the previously reprogrammed funds still remain unobligated, to include at least $1.8 billion in military construction funds that were diverted to border wall construction. Yet, it is being reported that the Department of Defense will be ordered to redirect an additional $7.2 billion towards construction of the wall. This would bring the total amount of Department of Defense funding to a total of $13.3 billion in transfers - more than the full unit acquisition cost of a Ford-class aircraft carrier, the entire research and development cost for the Columbia class of submarines, or the $10.6 billion to purchase 98 F-35s in FY2020. The military construction projects being delayed or cancelled will only add to the over $116 billion maintenance backlog of projects, directly impacting our military readiness and the well-being of our military families.
These actions come as we continue to face diverse, complex, and pressing security threats around the globe while trying to modernize our military and restore readiness. The lack of a strategy for the Middle East has led us to significantly heightened tensions with Iran, China and Russia continue to attempt to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model, North Korea remains an agitator in the Pacific, and we continue to support our allies and partners in the fight against terrorism. We acknowledge that balancing the Department's resources across these competing requirements is a difficult task, which leaves us more confounded how the Department can reallocate resources towards a border wall that lacks a clear defense-related requirement.
These actions further run counter to the bipartisan budget agreements in Congress that have allowed us to begin recovering the readiness lost during sequestration. Over the last three years, Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to address the threats our nation faces by significantly increasing defense funding, providing greater budget certainty for the Department of Defense, and honoring the commitment we make to our service members: that they are as well trained and equipped as possible to confront our adversaries. Much as the impact from sequestration compounded in each subsequent year, a decision by the administration to once more cancel military construction projects requested by the Department of Defense, and authorized and appropriated by Congress, will cause a lasting detriment to our ability to build and sustain readiness, meet the security challenges we face, and to honor our promises to our armed forces and their families.
For all the above reasons we strongly urge you to reconsider before making any decision to redirect Department of Defense resources for the construction of additional border wall. We hope you take into consideration how such a move would impact our ability to modernize our military, restore and sustain readiness, and execute the National Defense Strategy. In the event that FY2020 Department of Defense funds are transferred to construct primary fencing or other barriers on the southwest border, we request the following:
1. For each barrier project pursued using Military Construction funding:
a. a DD1391,
b. a detailed explanation for how the proposed border wall project directly supports the use of U.S. armed forces operating at the site of proposed construction in accordance with section 2808 of title 10, United States Code,
c. the planned date for obligating the funds, and
d. the dates of contract award, construction start, and construction complete.
2. A full list of the installations which are delayed, modified, or cancelled due to the transfer of the funds.
3. The impact on the volume and seizure of narcotics along the southwest border at and between the ports of entry due to transfer of funds for the proposed barrier projects.
4. The amount of FY2019 funds transferred for barrier construction which were obligated as of January 1, 2020.
5. The projected spend plan for the funds transferred in FY2019.
We look forward to continuing to work with you to strengthen our national defense, to support our warfighters, and to ensure we are realizing the most value from each taxpayer dollar appropriated to the Department of Defense.
Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04)
Congressman Gil Cisneros (CA-39)
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16)
Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11)
Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08)
Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24)
Congressman Tony Cardenas (CA-29)
Congressman Andre Carson (IN-07)
Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20)
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-07)
Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (TX-29)
Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01)
Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05)
Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06)
Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02)
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03)
Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02)
Congressman James McGovern (MA-02)
Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-06)
Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01)
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL)
Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08)
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09)
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03)
Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51)
Congressman Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Congressman Peter Welch (VT-AL)