Pentagon OKs $1B transfer to build border wall

Acting Pentagon Chief Pat Shanahan Authorizes $1B for Border Wall

The Pentagon has authorised the transfer of $1bn to army engineers to build a portion of the wall along the US-Mexico border, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said.

In a letter to Shanahan on Monday, a group of Democratic Senators led by Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Richard Durbin of IL said they "strongly" objected to the transfer of funds, which they described as a violation of congressional appropriations.

"The Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is authorized to coordinate directly with DHS/CBP and immediately begin planning and executing up to $1B in support to DHS/CBP by undertaking the projects identified above", he wrote.

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"As the proponent of the requested action [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol] will serve as the lead agency for environmental compliance and will be responsible for providing all necessary access to land", Shanahan wrote. The Democrats argue that Shanahan directed the transfer without permission from Congress.

Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, issued a formal letter to the Defense Department on Tuesday that "denies" the Pentagon request to transfer funding.

The news comes more than a month after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency regarding security at the border, a move that allowed for the reallocation of DoD funds to border protection.

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Though the list was tentative, Democrats were asserting that GOP lawmakers were endangering local bases to pay for the wall. Trump is trying to shift from the Pentagon's accounts to go to wall-building along the southern border.

Democrats were hoping to use the border emergency battle in upcoming campaigns, both to symbolise Mr Trump's harsh immigration stance and claim he was hurting congressional districts around the country. Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont; Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois; Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island; Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii; Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana; Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington; Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut; Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin; Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California; and Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico.

The White House has signalled it will seek to re-purpose some $6 billion from military funds, without specifying which Pentagon programs would be slashed.

"The $1bn reprogramming that the department is implementing without congressional approval constitutes a dollar-for-dollar theft from other readiness needs of our Armed Forces".

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Although there has been a surge in arrival of families and children at the border, overall apprehensions at the frontier are down substantially from a decade or more ago. The number of illegal aliens could reach 1 million this year.

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