Some $400 million assigned for Puerto Rico military facility constructions may be used for Trump wall
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Pentagon identifies potential funding from other projects
SAN JUAN – When President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern U.S. border on Feb. 15, he authorized the use of title 10, U.S. Code, section 2808, which provides the use of the armed forces to support border barrier projects.
The declaration authorizes that, “without regard to any other provision of law,” the military departments undertake construction projects, “not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces.”
The projects may be undertaken only with funds appropriated for military construction that have not been obligated, or contracted. The Pentagon, therefore has produced a list of projects whose funding may be used to subsidize the border barrier. It includes $400 million in military construction projects in Puerto Rico, some of which were to restore installations following Hurricane Maria’s impact on the island.
These include $61.1 million for a “Unit School Replacement” at the former Ramey Air Force Base in Aguadilla and $30 million for a Readiness Center in Arroyo, and for the Camp Santiago Army Base in Salinas, $148.5 million for a “Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site, “National Guard Readiness Center” and “Power Substation/Switching Station Building,” as well as $60 million for “Company Headquarters Building – Transient Training” and a dining facility.
That is according to a list of projects, which include military installations in the U.S. Virgin Islands and construction projects in Europe that the Washington Post said were “designed to help allies deter Russia.”
Congress first voted to recall the emergency declaration but Trump vetoed it.
In a statement, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González said: “It is disappointing that funds assigned to Puerto Rico and other U.S. jurisdictions for needed military construction projects could be redirected for other purposes. Our military forces rely on this funding to maintain readiness and preserve our national security. I am committed to fight so that our Island receives what was dutifully appropriated by Congress, and I remain in communication with colleagues from the House and Senate Appropriations Committee and the Department of Defense regarding this crucial issue.
“It is important to keep in mind that a final determination has not been made and further clarification of why these specific projects were selected is needed. I am deeply worried about this potential outcome and will continue vehemently advocating military programs for construction and other purposes on the island.
“We must remember that Puerto Rico is an insular jurisdiction that primarily relies on assets maintained on the ground. As we continue evaluating lessons learned by the 2017 hurricane season and the consequences it had on my constituents, we need to allow military units on the island to have the resources they need as they are the first line of defense in the aftermath of any natural or man made disaster.”
To identify the potential pool of sources from military construction funds, the DoD said no projects that already have been awarded, and ones with fiscal 2019 award dates will be impacted. Also, no military housing will be impacted.
“The Pentagon has said in the end, no projects would be lost due to funds being pulled from the wall — as long as Congress fully funds its 2020 request to replenish those funds, that is,” the Military Times wrote back in March.
“To undertake these Section 2808 border barrier military construction projects, I approve the use of unobligated military construction funds within the total $3.6 billion amount appropriated for military construction projects listed in the attachments to the memorandum, and direct you to make these funds available in the manner outlined below to the Acting Secretary of the Army.
“Funding from projects that are outside of the United States ($1.8 billion detailed in Attachment B) should be immediately provided to the Acting Secretary of the Army for Section 2808 execution. Funding associated with military construction projects located in the United States (including U.S. territories) ($1.8 billion detailed in Attachment C) should be provided to the Acting Secretary of the Army once it is needed for obligation,” reads the DoD’s memorandum.