Trump Won’t Rebuild Military Bases if He Has to Rebuild Puerto Rico, Too

A months-long standoff is stopping hurricane relief.

Hurricane Michael made landfall as a catastrophic Category 4 storm close to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., on Oct. 10, 2018. The storm created significant structural damage to the majority of the base and surrounding areas.
RYAN CONROY/U.S. AIR FORCE

The Defense News headline “The Air Force is spinning toward a $4 billion financial disaster” correctly highlights a problem of concern for its readership. But buried in the report is an even bigger story.

The setup matches the headline:

Hurricane relief efforts at Tyndall Air Force Base will begin lapsing Wednesday due to a lack of funds, preventing the start of all new work and deferring more than 120 projects planned to begin after May 1.

But that’s just the start of the Air Force’s money problems, which have resulted in a shortfall of more than $4 billion in fiscal 2019.

If the Air Force doesn’t get that funding, it will be forced to ground combat aircraft, defer at least 61 facility repair projects at various bases and halt certain aircraft maintenance actions. Key weapons programs — like hypersonic weapons development — would be slowed down and become more costly, and non-deploying squadrons may have their flying hours stripped away, warned Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in a March 6 memo obtained by Defense News.

That’s a big story that should concern all Americans. Further, there’s a similar issue for the Marine Corps. But the Why is even more interesting than the What.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have proposed legislation that would boost funding for hurricane and flood recovery efforts, but those bills have stagnated over how much disaster aid to provide Puerto Rico.

The powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., pledged to rebuild Tyndall once the impasse is resolved, but it was unclear when that might be. “I’m hopeful, but I was hopeful it would happen two, three weeks ago and it didn’t. It will happen in some form, the sooner the better,” he said.

Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers at each other, with the politics surrounding President Donald Trump’s policies at the U.S.-Mexico border entangling the Air Force’s financial reprieve.

Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the need at Tyndall and Offutt — as well as the Marine Corps’ requirement for hurricane relief at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina — “underscores the wrong priorities of the administration” after it reprogrammed roughly $1 billion in excess Army funds toward barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“They could have easily moved some of that to Tyndall and Camp Lejeune and kept some of the construction projects going,” Reed said. “Why are we taking $1 billion out of reprogramming and putting it at a project where the NORTHCOM commander said there’s no military threat at the border? Yet we’re ignoring serious storm damage at Tyndall, Offutt and Lejeune.”

Republican Members accuse Democrats of “playing politics” by refusing to separate these issues. But the Democrats have the better case here. Not only is the President illegally diverting a billion dollars appropriated for other measures for his border wall and spending an untold additional amount of money appropriated for other things to send troops to help the Border Patrol but he’s refusing to spend already-appropriated funds to help American citizens in Puerto Rico.

On a political front, that’s simply outrageous. Regardless of your position on border security or Puerto Rico, the fact of the matter is that Congress appropriates money. The President’s role is to propose a budget and then argue (through proxies) for it on the Hill. Congress then passes a budget and the President either signs or vetoes it. The President does not have the legal right to circumvent this process by simply spending the money allocated for various uses for other uses of his choosing. That stands our system on its head.

No, it’s Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress who are playing politics here. He’s spending monies allocated for our national security on a stupid stunt to demonstrate to his base his commitment to stopping illegal immigration. And doing as little as possible to help the American citizens of Puerto Rico.

I was originally going to title this post “Do Republicans hate brown people more than they love the military?” That’s too harsh. Then again, I’m not sure the President wouldn’t take it as a compliment.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Borders and Immigration, Military Affairs, National Security, Race and Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    “Do Republicans hate brown people more than they love the military?” That’s too harsh.

    No. No it’s not.

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  2. Hal_10000 says:

    The simple fact is that Trump doesn’t think of Puerto Ricans as Americans. Why exactly he doesn’t is left as an exercise to the reader.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “Do Republicans hate brown people more than they love the military?” That’s too harsh.

    I want to second @MarkedMan: but I think it would have been more accurate to just state, “Apparently, Republicans will sell out every principle they ever held dear to let trump fvck brown people.” because I am fairly sure that a fair number of them would not go out of their way to do so, but none of them have the balls to tell trump, “No.”

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  4. James Pearce says:

    It’s all fine to bemoan Trump’s behavior. He only pretends to be a great man when he’s actually a sniveling twit with the character of an ass polyp.

    But he’s not the only person in our dysfunctional government. If we had wiser, more strategic and yes, more capable people in Congress, Trump would be boasting of building a fence that isn’t going to do anything but crumble.

    As it is, Trump is going to build his fence and all this other stuff is happening too. Is it worth it?

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  5. de stijl says:

    Joyner:

    I was originally going to title this post “Do Republicans hate brown people more than they love the military?”

    It’s more petulant pique than “hate” at the institutional level. They are not a constituency (they don’t vote R) and are a convenient punching bag when you need a distraction. If you can whip up white exurban and rural voters (the core constituency) with some “brown people are coming to kill you, sell your son drugs, and steal your daughters” fervor, then why not? The literal definition of a “win-win”

    Especially when your de facto leader is a petulant, obviously narcissistic loathsome man-child utterly unfit for his job whose only good trait is his knack for coining catchy belittling nicknames for his rivals.

    James, your core beliefs and principles haven’t really changed that much, but your political perception has altered fairly radically since I started reading you here. Old you would have not seen this story at all, or dismissed it as immaterial, or spun it as normal day-to-day bureaucratic rigmarole (How is this the correct spelling!?! Isn’t it “rigamarole”? I think my spell checker is lying to me.) – nothing to see here folks just move along.

    You would not have written this piece in 2014. Had someone else written this piece in 2014 and it got some traction and was at the top of Memeorandum’s feed, you’d have pooh-poohed it, downplayed it, or pulled a Whataboutism off the pile of grievances as a distraction.

    Old you would not have written this piece. Old you would poke new you in the eye with a stick for saying this out loud in a public forum:

    “Do Republicans hate brown people more than they love the military?”

    You’ve changed, man.

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  6. al Ameda says:

    I was originally going to title this post “Do Republicans hate brown people more than they love the military?” That’s too harsh. Then again, I’m not sure the President wouldn’t take it as a compliment.

    I’ll answer the question in there: “Yes.”

    Also, Trump is a binary guy, he sets everything up as a ‘I get my way or there’s no deal,’ choice. It’s his idea of a clever negotiating tactic, which works if the people across the table have a terrible negotiating position, or if they’re on life support and gave Trump power of attorney to finalize the deal.

    And we know it’s almost always a false choice and sensible people know this (that excludes of course, at least 75% of the 62 million Trump voters). We know it’s phony because Republicans voted to cut taxes and widen the deficit which means there is plenty of debt-financed money available to do both projects.

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  7. de stijl says:

    BTW, does it bug you on some level that intentionally center-right OTB got over-run and captured* by a center-left commentariat?

    (Not “captured” – y’all can write what you want. We don’t own you and dictate the content.)

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  8. Teve says:

    @de stijl: Center-lefties who believe in testing and sharpening their ideas by confronting intelligent conservative arguments have few other places to go.

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  9. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    I remember when Doug was a stereotypical GMU libertarian.

    BTW, (speaking of libertarians) you guys should approach Radley Balko as a potential contributor. I don’t know who he’s writing for now (Googles… ah WaPo. That could be tough.) But Martin Longman has a gig where he writes for the Washington Monthly and his home blog (Booman Tribune) simultaneously. A piece at WaMo gets also published at Booman, and vice versa. Balko would a great get. Plus, he has a really awesome name – Radley Balko

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/radley-balko/

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  10. de stijl says:

    @Teve:

    Where do center-righties go? Why aren’t they commenting here?

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  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    @de stijl:

    A lot of them aren’t center right anymore.

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  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    If we had wiser, more strategic and yes, more capable people in Congress, Trump would be boasting of building a fence that isn’t going to do anything but crumble.

    Right now he is boasting about building a wall that he isn’t really building. So I’m not sure what your point is.

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  13. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    So I’m not sure what your point is.

    Unsurprising.

    My point is that this situation was invited not avoided. Shouldn’t this have been expected?

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  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    My point is that this situation was invited not avoided.

    That still makes no sense.

    Not only is the President illegally diverting a billion dollars appropriated for other measures for his border wall and spending an untold additional amount of money appropriated for other things to send troops to help the Border Patrol but he’s refusing to spend already-appropriated funds to help American citizens in Puerto Rico.

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  15. @de stijl:

    BTW, does it bug you on some level that intentionally center-right OTB got over-run and captured* by a center-left commentariat?

    Speaking for myself, but I think James would agree: we never set out to write from a particular POV, but rather to write about reactions to the news of the day. The truth should lead where is leads (or, to be a tad less grandiose: an honest attempt at understanding should be the goal).

    And part of it is just empirics. When you learn X doesn’t work, don’t double down on X (but that is what ideologues do, and I never want to be an ideologue).

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  16. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Democrats won the shutdown battle and thought that meant the war was over. But they forgot the most important thing about warfare.

    The enemy gets a vote.

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  17. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    intentionally center-right OTB

    When I said this I’d meant that as an observation of OTB as it was initially conceived, and not of the pieces you folks produce now.

    OTB is not today intentionally center-right and you haven’t been editorially for a long time. When I wrote the above, I was talking about the past and I was unclear on that point.

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  18. @de stijl: No, I understand. I just mean that we never intentionally set out to “be” anything on the left-right spectrum.

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  19. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    When you learn X doesn’t work, don’t double down on X

    This is an extremely important statement, beyond the point you were making — it assumes that everyone agrees that the purpose of a political philosophy is that it should work. That is, that it should accomplish goals that have to do with making people generally happier, more secure, more healthy, more productive. That it should do so in a reasonably equitable manner. That it should work long-term, not just for the moment. Stuff like that.

    The GOP no longer cares about what works, except in the sense of what keeps the GOP in power. That’s the best case — there’s a substantial subset that would consider progress toward any of the classical liberal ideals as undesirable, and a subset that sees any move away from Christian theocracy as undesirable, and a core (providing the funding) that is solely concerned with preserving their wealth. I’m willing to believe that was not always the case, but it is certainly the case now.

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  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Aha! The spelling r-i-g-m-a-r-o-l-e is correct, BUT…

    rig·ma·role
    /ˈriɡ(ə)məˌrōl/
    noun
    a lengthy and complicated procedure

    the pronunciation has an extra schwa after the “g” for English dialects that can elide the g when it isn’t schwa-ed. (Where I live, that g takes the schwa making for syllables, but it can reduce down to two–RIG m’rol depending on how firmly people include schwas.)

    More to your overall point. Keep pointing out what you’ve noticed to Dr. Joyner (and others as appropriate). My inclination (and spotty mental health or no, I see “abyss” as not only a separate nym, but also as a more cynical persona than I would like to be) is to see Joyner eventually–and probably sooner rather than later–returning to the fold and abandoning whatever growth of intellect/sensibility/whatever he has been experiencing. It’s good for me to have someone seeing with different eyes. Thanks.

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  21. An Interested Party says:

    That’s too harsh.

    Why is that too harsh…

    ReplyReply
  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    I’d like to see Radley contributing here and Daniel Larison and David French as well. French in particular will make my head explode from time to time, but he’ll make me think.

    ReplyReply
  23. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    the pronunciation has an extra schwa

    Ah! Our friend, the schwa! (This is a *very* obscure reference, btw)

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  24. Tony W says:

    @de stijl:

    Where do center-righties go?

    The Overton window has moved – center-left is the new center-right. The American “left” is the only somewhat responsible party in government these days

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