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US lawmakers challenge Pentagon diversion of $1 billion for border wall

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 27 March 2019, 10:14 AM
 It was the newest challenge to Trump’s February 15 declaration of a “national emergency”
It was the newest challenge to Trump’s February 15 declaration of a “national emergency”

A Democrat-led congressional committee challenged on Tuesday the Pentagon’s plan to divert US dollar 1 billion to support President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. Earlier, the Pentagon has notified the US Congress that it has authorised the transfer of $1 billion for Donald trump's border wall along Mexico. The funds have been diverted from the US army corpus to build the 58 miles fence, the Daily Beast report said. “I have decided to undertake Yuma sector projects 1 and 2 and El Paso sector project 1 by constructing 57 miles of 18-foot-high pedestrian fencing, constructing and improving roads, and installing lighting as described in your February 25, 2019 request,” acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a letter to homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

It was the newest challenge to Trump’s February 15 declaration of a “national emergency” at the border in order to obtain more than USD 5 billion to build a frontier wall to keep out illegal immigrants and drug smugglers, after Congress denied him the funds.

The Defence Department “is attempting to circumvent Congress and the American people’s opposition to using taxpayer money for the construction of an unnecessary wall, and the military is paying the cost,” said committee chairman Adam Smith.

“This needs to stop.... The Administration should stop using our service members as a political tool and instead focus on building military capabilities and readiness and areas where we should focus our defence resources.”

“Congress will act as necessary to defend its Constitutional prerogatives,” Smith warned in a statement.

Late Monday Shanahan said he had authorized the move of the funds to help the Homeland Security Department build 57 miles (92 kilometres) of 18-foot (5.5-meter) fencing, to construct and improve roads, and install lighting to support Trump’s emergency declaration.

Addressing concerns that the US military was straying out of its mission into domestic civilian operations, Shanahan cited US law that authorizes the military to support the counterdrug activities of other federal agencies.

For two years Trump has battled Congress for as much as USD 25 billion in funds to fortify the Mexico border with a massive wall.

After Congress voted earlier this month to nullify the emergency declaration, Trump vetoed it, allowing the Pentagon to reallocate billions of dollars to the border “emergency.” Smith said some limited amount of “reprogramming” of Pentagon funds for emergency needs without congressional approval is normally allowed.

But the shift of USD 1 billion, he said, is “a violation of that trust.”

First Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2019 06:54 AM
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