Will Trump take funds from Georgia military construction to fund wall?
U.S. President Donald Trump could siphon upwards of $260 million from military construction projects in Georgia to fund a long-promised “wall” at the nation’s southern border, according to early estimates compiled by the Department of Defense.
Seven construction projects across the state were included on a $12.9 billion list by Department of Defense officials that identified potential funding sources for the border projects. The list includes construction projects abroad, at Fort Benning, Robins Air Force Base and in nearly every state of the union that were unawarded at the end of 2018.
The following Georgia projects are on the Pentagon’s list:
▪ A $99 million dollar cyber instructional facility and network center at Fort Gordon, near Augusta.
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▪ A $43.3 million combat vehicle warehouse in Albany.
▪ A $31.9 million welding and body repair shop in Albany.
▪ A $30.9 million personnel recovery 4-bay hangar at Moody Air Force Base, near Valdosta.
▪ A $9.8 million commercial vehicle visitor control facility at Robins Air Force Base, near Warner Robins.
▪ A $13.6 million reserve training center at Fort Benning, near Columbus.
▪ A $32.2 million consolidated mission complex (phase 2) at Robins Air Force Base, near Warner Robins.
That list, however, could change as a set of conditions and stipulations spelled out by the Department of Defense could protect most, if not all, funding for those Georgia projects.
No construction projects that have already been awarded will be affected by the declaration, and no military housing, barracks or dormitory project funds will be reallocated. Funding from construction projects with award dates after Sept. 30, 2019, are the only ones that could be diverted for barriers.
Each construction project on the Pentagon’s list includes a projected award date. Based on those estimates, only one Georgia military project — Moody Air Force Base’s hangar — could see its funds diverted for the border barrier. The funding for that project is set to be awarded in October 2019.
An eighth Georgia project was included on this list. However, the contract for it was awarded in late February — a flight control tower at Fort Benning.
Trump declared a national emergency in mid-February to free up funds for the border project. Of the $8 billion he estimates is needed, $3.6 billion of those funds could come from military construction projects, McClatchy’s DC bureau reports.
But it’s unclear what border barrier projects, if any, will be funded through section 2808 authority, a portion of Trump’s national emergency declaration that allows the Secretary of Defense to determine whether the barriers are necessary to support the troops’ efforts in helping the Department of Homeland Security to secure the border.
None of the nation’s military construction projects may be affected. The Department of Defense reported in its list that if their 2020 budget is enacted on time, no military construction project would be delayed or canceled even if funds were diverted to fund border work.
“There are no decisions that have been made,” said Jamie Davis, a Department of Defense spokesperson. “They are going through that review process.”
Trump is also dealing with legal challenges from states and legislative challenges from lawmakers over his emergency declaration. Soon after issuing the declaration, 16 states sued the President in federal court. Members of Congress are attempting to block the President’s declaration.
Both of Georgia’s Republican U.S. Senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, voted against a measure that would have blocked Trump’s emergency declaration.
Isakson, who has been critical of Trump’s recent attacks on former Sen. John McCain, said in a statement that he’s pleased that no funds meant for military housing will be diverted to the barrier projects.
“The president has done great work to restore power and lethality to our military, and a great deal has been invested in our capabilities from cyber security and beyond,” Isakson said. “I will be monitoring this very closely to ensure that our gains in military readiness and lethality are not eroded by the transfer of funds from certain (construction) projects.”
After voting against the attempt to block the emergency declaration, Perdue said in a statement that the President was taking the right course of action.
“There is a five-alarm crisis at the southern border. I’ve seen it firsthand,” Perdue said. “This is not just about illegal immigration or building the wall. It’s about the explosion in illegal drug trafficking. We also need to close loopholes and get border patrol agents the resources they desperately need. President Trump knows that, and he’s right to take action to protect the American people.”
Sanford Bishop, the Democratic congressman who represents Albany and most of Columbus and Macon, voted to block Trump’s declaration. Bishop said in a statement the declaration makes America less safe by “stealing billions from high-priority military construction projects like those in Georgia.”
Austin Scott, the Republican congressman whose district includes Warner Robins and portions of Macon, voted against blocking the declaration. Attempts to reach Scott before publication were unsuccessful.
Trump vetoed Congress’ attempt to block his declaration, and neither chamber is expected to have the votes to override him. However, members of the Democratic-led House are expected to take action when they return from recess next week. A House vote on the veto override is scheduled for March 26, reports The Hill.