San Antonio Express News: Camp Bullis dining hall loses funds to border wall
President Trump’s quest to use military construction money to help build the border wall will fund 52 miles of new steel bollard barriers in Laredo, while eliminating $18.5 million for a new dining hall at the Camp Bullis training range.
The dining hall was one of 127 construction projects that the military said it was deferring this year in order to shift $3.6 billion to build more sections of wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
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It is the second time this year the Trump administration has taken money from the Pentagon for the border wall.
After Congress approved $1.4 billion to replace older portions of existing fencing on the border earlier this year - far less than President Trump’s $5.7 billion request — he declared a national emergency, clearing the way for the administration to use money allocated for other needs to build the wall.
The government last spring took $2.5 billion from other Defense Department accounts to replace some of the 650 miles of existing wall in various sections between California and South Texas.
Attempts to block the plan in court failed after the Supreme Court in July gave the administration the green light to reprogram the money.
The funding shift announced Wednesday will pay for 11 sections of wall covering 115 miles.
“I am deeply disappointed to see that funding for construction at essential military installations is being diverted to pay for an unnecessary and misguided border wall,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “The president’s overheated approach to immigration and the border is counterproductive and this decision could have an adverse impact on the security of our nation.”
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Several Texas Republicans in Congress have joined Democrats in opposing the border wall, asserting that there are betters ways to secure the border, including more manpower and the use of sensors, cameras and other technology.
“We must find a bipartisan solution to secure our border and solve the root causes of illegal immigration,” said Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, who serves on military construction and veterans affairs appropriations committees. “But we should not take away funds intended to help our troops in order to make this happen.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-San Antonio, slammed the decision as a “dangerous abuse of power — rejecting true security needs to divert resources to a humanitarian problem he created.”
The Pentagon said no housing and critical infrastructure projects for troops would be affected. Rundown housing has been a sore spot in light of recent revelations of poor conditions in homes used by troops around the country.
The Camp Bullis dining hall — planned to replace a 1930s facility — would have served 1,300 to 1,500 personnel at the rugged range in Northwest Bexar County, where soldiers, sailors and airmen do field training. It was one of two military projects scrapped in Texas. The other was a $20 million road project at Fort Bliss in El Paso.
The president has made the border wall and tight immigration restrictions among his chief priorities. The military has been tapped in other ways, spending millions of dollars to send active-duty and National Guard troops to the border to help stem the surge of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.
In Laredo, $1.2 billion will be diverted from the military to build 30-foot bollard fencing going northward from the Colombia Solidarity Bridge, said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. That's more than $24 million per mile. He didn’t know when construction would start, but said he plans to fight the plan in Congress.
Pentagon spokesman Chris Mitchell said the reprogrammed money doesn’t mean the projects are gone for good. The Pentagon said the projects are being “deferred” in hopes the money could be restored by Congress.