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Defense Secretary OKs Use of DOD Funds for Border Wall

Mark Esper approves the use of $3.6B for 175 miles of wall
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 3, 2019 7:08 PM CDT
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In this March 11, 2019 photo, construction crews replace a section of the primary wall separating San Diego, above right, and Tijuana, Mexico, below left, seen from Tijuana, Mexico.   (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

(Newser) – Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday approved the use of $3.6 billion in funding from military construction projects to build 175 miles of President Trump's wall along the Mexican border, the AP reports. Pentagon officials would not say which 127 projects will be affected, but said details will be available Wednesday after members of Congress are notified. They said half the money will come from military projects in the US, and the rest will come from projects in other countries. Esper's decision fuels what has been a persistent controversy between the Trump administration and Congress over immigration policies and the funding of the border wall. And it sets up a difficult debate for lawmakers who refused earlier this year to approve nearly $6 billion for the wall, but now must decide if they will refund the projects that are being used to provide the money.

Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon comptroller, said the now-unfunded projects are not being canceled. Instead, the Pentagon is saying the military projects are being "deferred." The Defense Department, however, has no guarantee from Congress that any of the money will be replaced, and a number of lawmakers made it clear during the debate earlier this year that they would not fall for budget trickery and sleight of hand to build the wall. Trump declared a national emergency in February in order to use military construction and other federal funds to build the wall after Congress provided only a portion of the $5.7 billion he wanted. The American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday that it would seek a court order blocking use of the funds as part of its lawsuit challenging the president's abuse of emergency powers to secure funds Congress had denied.

(Read more border wall stories.)

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