Pentagon to transfer $1.5 billion to border wall from Afghan forces and other areas

news
Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speak to the media at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved the transfer of $1.5 billion to build more than 80 miles (130 km)of barriers on the border with Mexico, U.S. officials said on Friday, including taking about $600 million from an account meant for Afghan security forces.


The latest move was opposed by congressional Democrats, who also criticized a March transfer of $1 billion in military money to fund Republican President Donald Trump's wall.

"The funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes and revised requirements, and therefore will have minimal impact on force readiness," Shanahan said in a statement.

Shanahan said that the U.S. military had more than 4,000 service members on the border, along with 19 aircraft.

All 10 Democrats on Senate appropriations subcommittees that handle defense, veterans affairs and related spending, wrote to Shanahan to oppose the decision. "We are dismayed that the Department has chosen to prioritize a political campaign promise over the disaster relief needs of our service members," they said.

A U.S. official said the latest transfer would include $604 million from funds for the Afghan security forces, which are struggling to hold territory against Taliban militants.

The United States had appropriated $4.9 billion in support for those forces this year. The official said the money was taken from that account because they found savings in contracts.

"It took less money to meet the policy commitment than we thought," another U.S. official said, adding this was not the first time money had been reprogrammed from the account.

The United States is in talks with the Taliban to end the 17-year-long war. U.S. and Taliban negotiators wrapped up their sixth round of peace talks on Thursday with "some progress" on a draft agreement for when foreign troops might withdraw.

But there is concern that overstretched Afghan forces could crumble if U.S. troops leave.

The remainder of the money will come from a chemical demilitarization program, a retirement account, funds for Pakistan and Air Force programs.

Lawmakers have hinted they may respond by putting new restrictions on the Pentagon's authority to move money around, as it has done in the past to deal with natural disasters.

Immigration is a signature issue of Trump's presidency and re-election campaign. He declared a national emergency in order to redirect funding to build a border wall without Congress' approval, and his fellow Republicans in Congress sustained his veto of legislation that would have stopped it.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali, additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio, James Dalgleish and Jonathan Oatis)

Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division in their Bradley Fighting Vehicle during Marne Focus at Fort Stewart, Ga. during the week of Oct. 14, 2019 (U.S. Army photo)

Three soldiers were killed and another three injured when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over during a training exercise at Fort Stewart in Georgia on Sunday morning, Army officials announced.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 11, 2019. (Reuters/Erin Scott)

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday in a bid to bring talks with the Taliban back on track after President Donald Trump abruptly broke off negotiations last month seeking to end the United States' longest war.

Esper's trip to Kabul comes amid questions about the United States' commitments to allies after a sudden withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and Trump's long-time desire to get out of foreign engagements.

Read More Show Less
Ummmmmm what? (Twitter)

Mark Esper is the third person after James Mattis and Patrick Shanahan to helm the Pentagon since Donald Trump became president, and he's apparently not making much of an impression on the commander-and-chief.

On Sunday, Trump sent a very real tweet on "Secretary Esperanto," which is either a reference to a constructed international language developed more than 130 years ago and only spoken on the PA system in Gattaca or an egregious instance of autocorrect.

Read More Show Less

The Army says it's settled on three defense contractors to battle it out to become the service's M4 carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon replacements, but at least one other company is hoping that a bit of consumer approval could help upset the competition.

Read More Show Less

The U.S. reportedly offered a long-term plan to help North Korea develop a tourist area in return for denuclearization during recent working-level talks in Stockholm that ended with the North side walking out, according to a new report.

American negotiators had drafted a plan to help build up the Kalma tourist area, the South's Hankook Ilbo newspaper reported Saturday, citing an unidentified top South Korean diplomat. The report didn't say how the North Koreans responded to the offer, but chief nuclear negotiator Kim Myong Gil portrayed the U.S. as inflexible after the talks earlier this month, blasting the Americans for not giving up "their old viewpoint and attitude."

Read More Show Less