Pentagon prepares border wall options
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is preparing options to build barriers on the southern border if President Donald Trump declares a national emergency there, the latest indication such a move is gaining traction within the administration.
“The Department of Defense is reviewing available authorities and funding mechanisms to identify options to enable border barrier con- struction,” said Navy Capt. Bill Speaks, a Pentagon spokesman. “As there has not been such a declaration made, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Trump is considering a declaration of a national emergency as a way to free up money for a border wall if talks with Democrats fail to yield a deal on his signature promise.
A declaration of an emergency
“The Department of Defense is reviewing available authorities and funding mechanisms to identify options to enable border barrier construction.”
Pentagon spokesman Bill Speaks
would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to design barriers and allow contracts to build them. Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, who commands the corps, accompanied Trump on his trip Thursday to the border in Texas, the White House said.
Trump suggested the declaration could happen at any time. Talks to end the partial shutdown of the federal government between Trump and Democratic leaders fell apart Wednesday.
“If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it – I would almost say definitely,” Trump said. “We have plenty of funds if there’s a national emergency.”
Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Trump was determined to build a wall on the border. “The president is going to get this done one way or the other,” he said.
The money would come from the Pentagon’s budget for construction projects approved by Congress but not yet spent.
Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview that he opposed diverting money from the Pentagon’s, or any other department’s, budget. Diverting the money from the military would prevent it from, for example, building barracks for troops.
The $5.7 billion Trump seeks would build 234 miles of barriers. The Corps of Engineers would probably be tasked with the project, Thornberry said, and would design the barriers and contract with construction firms to build it.
Democrats vowed to challenge such an emergency declaration in court.
“I urge President Trump not to siphon taxpayer money away from military construction or family housing or vital waterway infrastructure for his wall,” Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said Thursday night. “If congressional Republicans go along with this so-called emergency, future presidents will undoubtedly try and make similar end runs around Congress’s constitutional authority.”
Designers built prototypes of a wall between Mexico and the USA. President Trump wants $5 billion for a wall.