Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on Saturday said that he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.
US President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval.
A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Shanahan was likely to approve the US$3.6 billion being redirected from the military construction budget.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump can use certain US Department of Defense funding to build the wall.
According to the law, the defense secretary has to decide whether the wall is militarily necessary before money from the military construction budget can be used.
“We always anticipated that this would create a lot of attention and since moneys potentially could be redirected, you can imagine the concern this generates,” Shanahan told reporters traveling back with him from his trip to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe.
“Very deliberately, we have not made any decisions, we have identified the steps we would take to make those decisions,” Shanahan said.
He added that military planners had done the initial analysis and he would start reviewing it yesterday.
Officials have said that the US administration had found nearly US$7 billion to reallocate to the wall, including about US$3.6 billion from the military construction budget and US$2.5 billion from a department drug interdiction fund.
Shanahan would meet with the service secretaries in the coming days to pick which specific projects the money should come from, the official said.
Shanahan said that planners had identified the different sources of money that could be used, but he had not decided specifically what projects it would affect and ultimately it was his decision.
“I am not required to do anything,” he said.
Shanahan said he did not expect to take money away from projects like military housing.
Poor standards of military housing were highlighted by Reuters reporting, which described rampant mold and pest infestations, childhood lead poisoning, and service families often powerless to challenge private landlords in business with their military employers.
“Military housing, what’s been interesting — I’ve received a number of letters, I’ve had lots of feedback, do not jeopardize projects that are under way,” Shanahan said.
“As we step our way through the process we’ll use good judgment,” he said.
Trump’s move, circumventing the US Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that he insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration.
Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners.
“We are following the law, using the rules and we’re not bending the rules,” Shanahan said.
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