Defense Secretary Mark Esper has approved plans to shift $3.6 billion in military construction funds for nearly a dozen different projects to built or fortify parts of the wall along the U.S.’ southern border.
In a phone call, Esper informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the details concerning the diversion of the funds that are to be allocated evenly between domestic and international military projects, the Pentagon informed. The shift will likewise delay about 127 military projects, it added.
It is unclear which defense projects will be affected, military officials said, because the Pentagon must first notify Congress whose districts would be affected, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The military construction projects will not be completely canceled, the Pentagon officials noted, but could eventually be defunded due to Esper’s decision and Democrats have said they would not re-appropriate money for them.
Following the phone conversation with the defense secretary, Pelosi pointed out that the move will be challenged in court, calling the administration’s decision “irresponsible” and saying it “makes America less safe and dishonors the Constitution.”
Defense officials explained that the funds would be used to build or replace 175 miles of wall construction along the U.S.-Mexican border, with construction on Pentagon-owned land set to begin as soon as December.
Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller Elaine McCusker told reporters Tuesday that construction on other land, private or government, would kick off later.
According to Army Lieutenant General Andrew W. Poppas, the Pentagon estimates that around 5,000 active-duty troops would be used in the construction projects, who will leave once they have been completed, although the timeline for that to happen remains unknown.
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in February, ordering government agencies to divert a total of $6.7 billion from a number of domestic and military projects to the building of the wall. The move was challenged in court by several organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
The lead attorney with the ACLU, Dror Ladin, said that although the President claimed at the time “this was an emergency, he did absolutely nothing for seven months.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also blasted the decision, saying it was “a slap in the face” to service members.
“This decision will harm already planned, important projects intended to support our service members at military installations in New York, across the United States, and around the world. It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country that President Trump is willing to cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build,” Schumer wrote in a statement.