Donald Trump has implemented plans to divert US$1 billion in military funds to build a wall along the border of Mexico and the United States.
The reallocation of funds was announced in a Pentagon statement which said US Defence Secretary Partick Shanahan had given the Pentagon authorisation to reallocate military funds. As a result, around US$1 billion will be siphoned off from other military agencies to “support … the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol”. The statement said most of the money would be put towards the creation of 91 kilometres of 5 meter high fencing, while a smaller portion would be put towards improving roads in the area, and installing new lights.
The Pentagon’s statement cites a federal law which gives the Department of Defence the authority to construct roads, fences, and other items necessary to “block drug-smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of federal law enforcement agencies”. The House Armed Services Committee (the group who usually oversees all budget reallocations) have expressed disappointment over the Pentagon’s decision. The committee sent a letter to the Pentagon’s denying their request, but it is unclear whether it will have any legal effect. Although the Pentagon typically must bring all allocations to the committee for approval, it is believed the law cited by the Pentagon may excuse them from seeking approval in some cases.
It is likely the decision will be challenged either in court, or in Congress, where senators have already indicated they will be reviewing the laws which give Pentagon the power to reallocate funds. In a letter written to Shanahan, several senators said they “strongly object[ed] to both the substance of the funding transfer, and to the department implementing the transfer without seeking the approval of the congressional defence committees and in violation of provisions in the defence appropriation itself”.
The announcement comes after Trump declared a national emergency in the middle of February. The national emergency was declared as a result of Congress’ refusal to pass a bill which would allocate US$5.7 billion to the construction of a wall between Mexico and the United States. Congress said it would not approve the measure until they had been given a budget which showed how the funds would be managed. In response, Trump declared a national emergency, which allowed him to bypass Congress’ objections by invoking a series of emergency powers allowing him to reapportion funds unilaterally.