‘Given a legal order from the commander in chief, we are executing on that order…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) The Democrat chair of the House Armed Services Committee struck down the Pentagon’s attempt to move $1 billion toward the construction of a southern border wall on Tuesday, warning military leaders against unilaterally shifting money without congressional approval.
“The committee does not approve the proposed use of Department of Defense funds to construct additional physical barriers and road or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border.”
Smith’s attempt to block the money transfer will likely head to the courts, since the Pentagon is acting on President Donald Trump’s executive order, which allocates funds from the Defense Department toward the construction of a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border.
Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan approved the use of $1 billion in anti-drug-trafficking funding for 57 miles of border fencing, aimed at blocking “11 drug-smuggling corridors.”
As Pentagon officials previously noted before the committee, U.S. Code automatically authorizes the Pentagon to use funds from its budget for fighting drug smuggling and organized crime, including the construction of barriers.
But in a hearing on the Pentagon’s fiscal 2020 budget on Tuesday, Shanahan admitted that this shift of funds would likely hinder the Pentagon’s power in the future.
“The discussion … is that by unilaterally reprogramming, it was going to affect our ability long term to be able to do discretionary reprogramming that we had traditionally done in coordination,” Shanahan said, according to Politico. “It was a very difficult discussion, and we understand the significant downsides of losing what amounts to a privilege.”
The ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, agreed that the Pentagon’s unilateral allocation of funds could result in more regulation.
“I also agree with the chairman that changing decades of reprogramming practice is going to have difficult consequences for the whole government, but especially for the Department of Defense,” he said.
But Shanahan said the risk is worth taking because the Defense Department must obey Trump’s order.
“We said, ‘Here are the risks longer term to the department,’ and those risks were weighed,” Shanahan said. “And then given a legal order from the commander in chief, we are executing on that order.”