The Defense Department has notified Congress that it's going to be diverting another $3.83 billion from already appropriated money to go to another 177 miles of impeached president Donald Trump's border wall. At least this time they're not stealing from military pensions, perhaps because that well is drying up.
The Washington Post reviewed budget documents which claim that the funds will come from money slated for weapons purchases, specifically "two F-35 fighter jets and two Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft for the Marine Corps; one P-8A reconnaissance aircraft for the Navy; and four C-130J transport planes and eight MQ-9 Reaper drones for the Air Force." Additional funds will be diverted from programs updating current equipment, because why should the military have fully functioning equipment. It's not something Defense Secretary Mark Esper is worried about too much. He says "Border security is national security […] and national security is our mission."
He also said the diversion of funds "is legal under the law, and so it should be no surprise, and I'll just leave it at that for now." According to the information reviewed by the Post, the Pentagon is justifying the diversion of funds citing a counternarcotics law allowing the department to build fencing in areas where drug smuggling is a known problem.
Members of Congress, in both parties, don't agree with Esper's claim that the Pentagon has this legal authority. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican who is ranking member on House Armed Services, blasted the move. He said in a statement issued Thursday that it "undermines the principle of civilian control of the military and is in violation of the separation of powers within the Constitution." He continued, "The re-programming announced today is contrary to Congress's constitutional authority and I believe that it requires Congress to take action." He said he would "be working with my colleagues to determine the appropriate steps to take."
Rep. Adam Smith, the Democratic chairman of Armed Services agreed. "Today's reprogramming request confirms once again that the President is obsessed with fulfilling a campaign promise at the expense of our national security," his statement read. "This administration has already stolen billions from the Department of Defense in order to begin building the president's vanity wall and today they are doubling down on bad policy."
With this announcement, the Pentagon will have diverted about $10 billion in funds from critical military housing and infrastructure, from pensions, from counter-drug operations, hurricane relief to Puerto Rico's national guard, and now military equipment.