House Panel Seeks to Block Pentagon Funds for Border Wall.
The prohibition on using funds for a wall, fence or other physical barrier is one of several provisions in the Democratic-led committee's version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in response to President Donald Trump's repeated use of the military to fulfill his pledge to build a wall on the Southern border, according to a summary released Monday, The Hill reported.
Overall, the House's fiscal year 2020 NDAA would authorize a $733 billion defense budget, including $633 billion for the Pentagon's base budget, $69 billion for a war fund and $22.7 billion for Department of Energy nuclear programs.
The Trump administration proposed a $750 billion defense budget, which defense hawks say is needed to ensure the military is ready to counter Russia and China. But Democrats are defending the $733 billion as covering all the Pentagon's needs.
"This authorization level will allow our military to maintain readiness, expand capabilities, and invest in the new software and technologies required to secure our country and protect us against our adversaries," the summary said, adding, "Chairman Smith's proposal meets the committee's goal to facilitate a strong national defense apparatus that is resourced properly, accountable for its actions and cognizant of the essential, direct oversight role of Congress."
Trump declared a national emergency in February in order to be able to dip into military construction funding to build the wall without congressional approval.
The Pentagon has yet to use military construction money on the wall. But under separate executive authority, the Pentagon has moved $2.5 billion from various accounts into its counter-drug account to use for the wall.
The military also has thousands of active-duty and National Guard troops deployed to the border in a support role. Last week, it was revealed that includes painting border fencing.
Furious about the Pentagon transferring counter-drug funds without congressional approval in defiance of longstanding procedure, Democrats included in the NDAA a prohibition on reprogramming funds into the counter-drug account.
There would also be a modification of the counter-drug authority to exclude the ability to use funds on fences and walls.
On the emergency construction authority Trump used in declaring an emergency, the NDAA would place a $100 million cap for domestic uses.
The bill would also modify the authority Trump has used to deploy troops. Among the changes are requiring reimbursement from the Department of Homeland Security, certification that there is no effect on readiness and certification that contractors could not be used for the task. Deployed military personnel would also have to be performing tasks within their mission.
Though Republicans have also expressed concern about using military funding for the wall, a summary of committee ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry's (R-Texas) views of the NDAA called the bill "overly prescriptive with its presumptive ban on construction projects". The restrictions, the summary argued, could "hamper the recovery of other critical infrastructure".
Thornberry also blasted the overall $733 billion funding level, saying it does not follow the 3 to 5 percent year-over-year budget growth defense officials have testified is needed.
"The Budget Control Act set arbitrary and unrealistic spending caps on our military," Thornberry said in a statement, adding, "Those caps forced the Pentagon into unwise choices, deferring needed training, maintenance and modernization. These choices contributed to a lethal readiness crisis we are only now arresting. I am concerned that by imposing another insufficient and arbitrary topline, the chairman's mark is forcing those unwise choices once again."
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|Publication:||FARS News Agency|
|Date:||Jun 10, 2019|
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