White House to Divert $7.2B for Border Wall
In the latest update on the U.S.-Mexico border wall saga, President Donald J. Trump is planning to divert roughly five times what Congress authorized to spend in the 2020 budget from Pentagon funding for border wall construction.
According to the plans, the diverted funds would allow the government to complete an additional 885 miles of new fencing by spring 2022, approximately 376 more miles than the administration had slated for the U.S. border with Mexico.
Border Wall Saga
In September 2017, the first border wall contracts were awarded to four different companies to develop prototypes that would work in conjunction with the border in the San Diego area. U.S. special forces spent weeks attempting to breach the eight prototype models of the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, which proved to withstand jackhammers, torches and climbing tools.
Since then, the government has worked to speed up the project. In October 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that any environmental regulations regarding the construction or repair of a section of the border wall for certain areas in Texas would be waived, drawing ire from environmentalists and private property owners alike. The announcement detailed exemptions in Cameron County; another announcement made the following day detailed similar measures for Hidalgo County.
Through the course of late 2018 and into 2019, construction began on section of border wall gates in the Rio Grande Valley sector, with several million in border wall contracts being awarded for work elsewhere. In mid-2019, a judge blocked the president’s use of money originally intended for military funding, for work on the border wall. The injunction only accounted for roughly $1 billion in funding for the border wall, money that the Department of Defense had funneled away from Army personnel to the Department of Homeland Security.
In July, over a week after a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from using $2.5 billion in funding for the border wall, CBP and the Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $33 million contract for four miles of border wall work in Texas. Environmental regulations for that section of structure were also waived. August also saw the award of another $305 million in contracts.
In September, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved $3.6 billion in funding—largely pulled from military construction projects, including housing—to go toward building 175 miles of the border wall. At the end of that same month, Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, reported that roughly a mile of border wall is being built every day.
Additionally, in November, Trump allowed for construction to begin on a section of the wall in Texas without customary environmental reviews. Last month also saw funding stemming from canceled military projects being assigned to three new contracts for the construction of over 30 miles of replacement fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, totaling $316 million in work. The federal judge’s blockage of funding also occurred in December.
By December, a U.S. federal judge blocked the Trump administration from transferring $3.6 billion in Pentagon funds for new border wall barriers when it attempted to commander funds for the border wall that had already been authorized by Congress for other purposes.
However, earlier this month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based out of New Orleans, ruled 2-1 that a certain set of Department of Defense funding could be used for border wall construction and lifted the injunction. The Washington Post reports that due to this ruling, the president and his administration viewed the matter as an invitation to take money again in 2020.
Latest Border Wall Funding
In his most recent move, Trump is gearing up to divert $7.2 billion of military funds to use for barrier construction in the U.S.-Mexico border wall project. To break down where the funds will come from, the President intends to use $3.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and $3.7 billion intended for construction projects.
The funding move brings the total amount of federal funds allocated to border fencing to $18.4 billion and is $4.6 billion more than what Democrats allotted for the 2020 border wall budget. In comparison to last year’s numbers, it is more than $1 billion above what had been approved for 2019—which took $3.6 billion from the military's construction budget and $2.5 billion meant for counternarcotics activities.
If the funding is received, 885 miles of new fencing is expected to be complete by spring 2022. According to the latest figures, thus far, 101 miles of new barriers have been completed.