Why this could be the last year the Pentagon pays for the border wall – By Meghann Myers (Military Times) / Feb 13 2020
As the Defense Department announced Thursday that it would divert billions of dollars that were put in the Pentagon budget to support military operations and reprogram that to instead pay for almost 200 miles of border wall this year, a Pentagon official told reporters that he did not anticipate that military money would need to be shifted around for a third year in a row to pay for border barriers.
About $3.8 billion in funds that were originally set aside to pay for planes, ships, ground vehicles and other programs will now go to the Army Corps of Engineers to put up 177 miles of fencing along the U.S. border with Mexico, according to the deputy assistant defense secretary for homeland defense integration.
“The improved ability to impede and deny elicit activity within the border barrier area projects will help to deter and prevent illegal cross-border activity and stem the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States,” Bob Salesses said Thursday. “It also creates a much safer operational environment for law enforcement.”
The latest diversion will bring the military’s total border construction expenditure to almost $10 billion, after $6 billion in counter-drug and military construction funds went to border wall construction in 2019, the maximum amount the Pentagon is allowed to re-program after a budget has been signed into law.
But after this year, Salesses said, the Defense Department doesn’t anticipate another request for border wall funding. The total project cost has been estimated at $18 billion for 722 miles, which President Donald Trump originally said should be complete by 2022.
“Based on where we are in the process, the ability to speed that up and deliver on the border barrier construction has obviously increased significantly,” he said when asked how they could estimate that all of the money required would be set aside this year.
“I don’t have anything specific, but it’s clear that we’ll be meeting the requirements that have been identified by the president to accelerate and build the border barrier as quickly and effectively as possible,” Salesses said.
Border deployments by active-duty and National Guard troops are expected to continue throughout the year. The most recent totals have about 5,000 troops doing surveillance and other Customs and Border Patrol support.