WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has approved an additional 20 miles of 30-foot high barriers for the southern border, a section of wall that is being paid for by previously repurposed Pentagon funds.
The shifting of Pentagon funds to build the border wall has proven controversial and has been met by congressional opposition and a court challenge.
Esper’s approval of additional fencing was confirmed by a court documents relating to that challenge and by Defense officials.
The Pentagon had previously approved $2.5 billion in funds to be reprogrammed into the Defense Department’s counter-drug account which is authorized to spend money on border barrier construction for the purpose of blocking “drug-smuggling corridors.”
While then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had earlier approved some 135 miles of fencing requested by the Department of Homeland Security in the Yuma, El Paso and Tucson sectors, the cost of constructing that section of the border wall was less than originally anticipated, freeing up funds to support the additional 20 miles approved Monday.
The Pentagon has argued that it does not need lawmaker approval to move the money around. Congress has responded by threatening to remove the Defense Department’s ability to move money from one account to another, something known as reprogramming.
The re-purposing of funds has also been challenged in the courts, however the Supreme Court recently decided lat month that the border wall contracts can proceed while a court battle plays out over whether the government had the authority to divert funds that were not appropriated for the wall.
The Supreme Court voted 5-4, along ideological lines, to allow the funds to be used while the court appeals proceed
The $2.5 billion had been shifted from various programs including personnel and recruiting, Minuteman III and air launch cruise missiles, E-3 aircraft upgrades and the Afghan security forces training fund. The Pentagon said it was able to move that money due to uncovered cost savings as part of a process known as “reprogramming.”