Pen­tagon pre­pares bor­der wall op­tions

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Van­den Brook

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.”

SANDY HUFFAKER/GETTY IM­AGES

De­sign­ers built pro­to­types of a wall be­tween Mex­ico and the USA. Pres­i­dent Trump wants $5 bil­lion for a wall.

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