House Committee Seeks to Stop Reallocation of Pentagon Funds for Border Wall Construction

The House Armed Services Committee released Monday a summary of its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would block the use of Pentagon funding for the building of the border wall or any fencing or physical barrier.

The panel’s 2020 NDAA comes in response to President Donald Trump’s repeated use of the military to fulfill his campaign promise to erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, The Hill writes. It would include $733 billion in defense, of which $633 billion would be for the Pentagon’s base budget, $69 billion for a war fund and $22.7 billion for Department of Energy nuclear programs.

The Trump administration, arguing that the Pentagon needed more funds to counter threats from Russia and China, proposed a $750 billion defense budget, but House Democrats are adamant that the $733 billion is enough to cover all the Pentagon’s needs.

“This authorization level will allow our military to maintain readiness, expand capabilities, and invest in the new software and technologies required to secure our country and protect us against our adversaries,” the summary reads. “Chairman Smith’s proposal meets the committee’s goal to facilitate a strong national defense apparatus that is resourced properly, accountable for its actions and cognizant of the essential, direct oversight role of Congress.”

In February, President Trump declared a national emergency in an effort to use military construction funding to build the wall, circumventing Congress. The Pentagon has moved about $2.5 billion into its counter-drug account from several different accounts, which they plan to use for the construction of the wall, but the money has not yet been used.

Frustrated by the move, Congressional Democrats included in their NDAA a prohibition on reprogramming funds into the counter-drug account and a modification of the counter-drug authority that would prevent it from utilizing funds to build barriers.

It would further limit the emergency construction authority to $100 million for domestic uses and would introduce changes to the authority the President has used to deploy active-duty troops to the border.

Some Republicans have expressed dissatisfaction with the use of military funds for the wall, but they nonetheless believe that the restrictions Democrats outlined in the summary would “hamper the recovery of other critical infrastructure.”

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