Trump Diverts Money From Military Families To Pay For Border Wall
The Trump Administration from projects to build on-base schools and daycare facilities to spend on his border wall.
In the latest round of his effort to fund his border wall notwithstanding the fact that Congress continues to refuse to authorize spending for its construction, President Trump is redirecting spending designed to benefited military families and the children of American service members to the seemingly quixotic project:
Here we go again — our nation’s leaders are sticking it to kids.
And in this case, it’s the kids of all those military men and women everyone likes to salute and praise and honor. When it’s convenient.
While they go to work defending our country, thousands of parents in the military trust the welfare of their kids to child-care centers on base. It’s one of the things that the military usually does really well.
But here in the Washington area, on the very base that President Trump uses nearly every time he flies out to one of his golf courses (229 golf games so far during his presidency), the Joint Base Andrews Children’s Development Center is in danger.
Parents complained when the playground was inaccessible for months and kids had no space to frolic and that the bathrooms look sketchy with huge holes in the tiles. The center’s Facebook feed chronicles power outages, air conditioning troubles, phones and computers being dead and damage done by a car that hit the building.
So finally, Congress approved $13 million in the 2019 budget to give this important base the kind of child-care facility it deserves.
But nevermind. The Trump administration just killed the funding for this project, as well as a handful of others at schools and family support facilities on military bases.
Wait until you hear why.
In a frantic cash grab, the folks in power released a list of Defense Department projects they are raiding to fund the border wall that the majority of Americans said they don’t want. All in time for the 2020 election.
The projects they are defunding include a toxic waste warehouse and a fire and crash rescue station — some crucial-sounding operations. So are the projects for military kids — the Andrews day care as well as a middle school in Fort Campbell, Ky., and an elementary school in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Trump’s move represents a betrayal of military families, many of whom supported him in the 2016 election. The day cares are especially crucial for parents.
The families at Andrews had been waiting for years for a major renovation and expansion. An environmental impact report on the project in 2013 lists the problems with the primary child- care building, which was built in 1943. Multiple rooms couldn’t be used because of mold, and the facility had old heating and air conditioning systems. At the time, there were 130 children on the waiting list who couldn’t be accommodated, forcing them to use much more expensive day care off base.
“Most bases have a long list of requirements that need repair,” said Brian McKeon, a former Pentagon official who is now senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
So if a project even made the list to go before Congress and get approval, it “means very likely they’re in bad shape,” McKeon said.
And delaying a project already in dire need will be even more difficult to repair later on, he said.
The daycare center at Joint Base Andrews is just one project that would be impacted by the Trump Administration’s move. The New York Times notes that the redirection of funds will also impact the construction of a new school on the premises of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the home of the 101st Airborne Division and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, two units that continue to have members deployed overseas in Afghanistan and other locations associated with the seemingly never-ending”War on Terror.” The redirection of funds will also impact projects at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018, at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In addition to these projects, the funds being diverted will also impact money that had been allocated for repairs to American military facilities in Puerto Rico that were impacted by Hurricane Maria, which struck the island two years ago as well as numerous other small projects scheduled to take place at American military facilities across the country.
Not surprisingly, at least some members of the House and Senate are upset by this:
The Pentagon notified individual lawmakers from states that will be impacted Wednesday, sparking bipartisan criticism.
Utah’s Republican senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, expressed their concerns in a joint statement after learning military construction funds for projects at Hill Air Force Base would be reprogrammed.
Specifically, they were told that $26 million was being diverted from Hill AFB Composite Aircraft Antenna Calibration Facility and another $28 million from the Utah Test and Training Range Consolidated Mission Control Center.
“In April, Senator Lee and I expressed our significant concerns to the Secretary of Defense regarding the potential diversion of funds for critical military construction projects in Utah,” Romney said. “I’m disappointed that despite those concerns, two key military construction projects totaling $54 million will be delayed as a result of the February 2019 emergency declaration.
“Congress has been ceding far too much powers to the executive branch for decades and it is far past time for Congress to restore the proper balance of power between the three branches,” Lee said. “We should start that process by passing the ARTICLE ONE Act, which would correct the imbalances caused by the National Emergencies Act,” Lee added.
Virginia’s Democratic senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, said Wednesday that the Pentagon informed them of four military construction projects in their state that will lose a more than $77 million in funds due to the Pentagon’s decision to divert that money toward building President Donald Trump’s border wall.
In Virginia, the following projects will be affected:
* Cyber Operations Facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis will lose $10,000,000.
* Navy Ships Maintenance Facility in Portsmouth will lose $26,120,000.
A project to replace a hazardous materials warehouse in Norfolk will lose $18,500,000.
* A project to replace a hazardous materials warehouse in Portsmouth will lose $22,500,000.
“The decision by the President to divert funding meant to support U.S. national security interests so that he can build a border wall only makes us less safe,” Warner said in a statement. “Taking money away from our military — including funding to support critical projects here in Virginia — will mean we are less equipped to tackle threats here at home and abroad.”
“I’m deeply concerned about President Trump’s plan to pull funding from critical national security projects — including millions of dollars from important projects in Virginia — so he can build his border wall. The well-being of American troops is the core responsibility of every commander in the military, yet the Commander-in-Chief is shirking that duty so he can advance his own political agenda,” Kaine added.
All of this, of course, is rooted in the “national emergency” that President Trump declared in late February at the same time that he signed off on the budget deal reached by the House and Senate. That deal, of course, did not include significant funding for the President’s border wall, something that had been the main issue of contention during the thirty-five-day government shutdown that lasted from December 22nd to January 25th. The President declared this emergency by relying on the authority granted to him under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which has been used by Presidents in the past but never in the manner that Trump used it to provide funding to a project that had been specifically denied by Congress. Indeed, the President seemed to undermine his own case for a “national emergency” at the news conference where he announced it when he admitted that he “did not need to do this.” Specifically, the President admitted that he could have waited for additional funding from Congress but that he wanted to speed the project along. This admission is an obviously damaging admission on the part of the President because it suggests that there is no “national emergency” and that Trump was merely using the alleged authority the law provides to him to get around the political process that the Constitution contemplates.
Congress also sought to block the President’s declaration of a “national emergency” through the procedures allowed by the 1976 law. Within days after the President had made his declaration, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives began considering a resolution designed to halt that declaration. That resolution was approved by the House and Senate but vetoed by the President, and Congress unsurprisingly failed to override that veto. Despite that veto, though, it was notable that at least in the Senate the vote against the President’s declaration was bipartisan in some sense, with six Republicans joining in with the Democrats in favor of the resolution. Unfortunately, the number of Republicans in the House who did the same as relatively small.
Almost immediately after the President took this action, and in several cases even before Congress had undertaken the effort to block the President, the inevitable lawsuits had begun. In addition to this case, which was filed by the ACLU on behalf of the Sierra Club and another environmental group, there are also pending cases resulting from lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders and Wildlife, and the Animal Defense Fund as well as other another case filed by the watchdog group Public Citizen on behalf of Texas landowners and an environmental group in Texas. Finally, in late April the House of Representatives filed its own lawsuit seeking to block the President’s emergency declaration and his diversion of funds. There have not been any rulings in those cases issued as of this date. There is also a lawsuit that was filed by California and sixteen other states, but that case was dealt a setback earlier this year when the District Court Judge ruled that the states had not shown the type of irreparable harm necessary to obtain an injunction. That case is currently proceeding along two tracks, with the ruling on the temporary injunction on appeal to the Ninth Circuit while the rest of the case remains pending in the District Court. In July, the Supreme Court granted the Trump Administration a partial victory in all this litigation when it blocked a lower court injunction preventing the Administration from moving funds while the litigation is pending, although the Court’s ruling seemed to hint that the ultimate outcome of the case could be different depending on how the facts are developed in the litigation pending in the lower courts.
While the official status is that these projects are being “delayed,” the truth is that each of them will have to be reauthorized by Congress meaning that it could take years for funding to be fully restored. This will likely mean that the actual delays experienced in the projects in question could last a year or more, and that assumes that they don’t end up getting raided by the Trump yet again in his effort to make end runs around Congress, which continues to refuse to authorize spending on his border wall. Not only is this potentially illegal, it’s also a slap in the face of servicemen and women and their families who have sacrificed so much for this country. This is quite simply immoral.