Almost exactly a month after President Donald Trump said he would take $3.6 billion from military construction projects to pay for the border wall, Congress is finally learning which construction projects may get defunded.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan promised to provide the Senate Armed Services Committee with a complete list of construction projects at risk of being defunded to pay for the wall after several lawmakers pressed him on the issue, including Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
“I would like that list today, Mr. Secretary,” Reed, the ranking Democrat on the committee, told Shanahan.
“Sure,” Shanahan replied.
The Pentagon is still waiting to hear from Homeland Security Department Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on how much military funding will be needed for the border wall, said David L. Norquist, who is performing the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Defense.
The military construction projects that could be cancelled to pay for the wall were funded in the fiscal 2019 budget but have not yet been awarded contracts, Norquist told Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).
Trump announced on Feb. 15 that he was declaring a national emergency that allowed him to take $3.6 billion from military construction projects and another $2.5 billion from counter narcotics funding to pay for the border wall.
The president claimed that the $6.1 billion in defense spending that he was diverting to the wall was not originally supposed to fund anything that sounded “too important to me.”
The most contentious moments from Thursday's hearing came when Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) lambasted Shanahan for not providing the list of at risk construction projects to Congress earlier.
Kaine noted that the information about military construction projects that could be defunded is “highly relevant” to senators who are slated to vote later Thursday on a resolution to end the president's national emergency declaration.
“I got to tell you: I feel completely sand-bagged,” Kaine said. “The service secretaries have been willing to share the list of their unobligated MILCON projects. So you're going to send it to us today after the vote on the emergency declaration?”
“Members of the Senate are entitled to know from where these MILCON monies will be pulled,” he continued.
“Your service secretaries and chiefs have had these lists and when we've asked them to send them to the committee, they said: 'We can't without the permission of the SECDEF .' So were they only available in the last half hour?”
Shanahan tried to assure Kaine that the Pentagon was not withholding any information from lawmakers about the affected construction projects.
“Throughout this process of the emergency declaration – and I just have to say, this is not something we do every day – from the very start, we have worked to be 100 percent transparent with Congress.”
But Kaine continued to berate Shanahan until the senator ran out of time.