- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Journalist Kate Brennan is reporting that Defense Secretary James Mattis is drafting plans to build President Trump’s long-promised border wall with Mexico by utilizing money from the Pentagon’s budget. 

On Thursday, the Pentagon acknowledged that Mattis has had conversations with Trump on this topic, but would not provide any further details.

“What I can tell you is that the secretary has talked to the president about it, but I don’t have any specifics with respect to any more details,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at a briefing.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. When asked about it on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said she couldn’t get into any specifics.

Trump is likely to be disappointed when he learns that thanks to the checks and balances built into the federal government, moving money around on a whim is not that easy. In fact, it’s usually illegal. The Pentagon has a little bit of wiggle room to move certain funds around without congressional approval, but generally, it must spend its money exactly the way in which Congress directs it.

This leaves only a few options for the Defense Department to redirect money legally to pay for Trump’s wall. It is now busy drafting those choices for the president, with Pentagon lawyers playing a pivotal role in the process.

There are plenty of hysterics being voiced over this news and smart people on the right, the left and somewhere in between are debating whether House rules and appropriation practices allow the Pentagon to shift money for the border security project. They will continue to debate, but can we just examine the fundamental logic employed with the principle of using defense funds for the wall? 

Earlier this month President Trump used his powers as Commander-in-chief to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum under the guise of national security. The president, and his allies, argued that a robust steel industry is essential to ensure US military readiness therefore he did not need congressional approval (or even debate) to impose the import tax on these products. 

Free market and free trade advocates (yours truly included) opposed the tariffs but conceded that the president had the power to impose them in this case due to the national security argument (as this as it may have been.) 

If the president can unilaterally use his executive power to impose a tariff on an entire category of imports so that a domestic industry can continue to manufacture tank armor, surely protecting our national border also falls under the “national security” umbrella, doesn’t it? 

If the Department of Defense can’t protect our country’s national border in whichever way the chain of command chooses, then what can they do? 

Surely the president can send troops to patrol the Mexican border if he believes there is a valid national security threat there. In fact, President Obama did just that in 2011. If sending troops into harms way to protect the border falls under the constitutional authority of the executive branch, how can one argue that building a structure to aid the troops in protecting that very same border is not allowed? 

Of course, one can’t legitimately argue such a thing. It’s ludicrous. 

In the best of all worlds, the congress should debate the funds for the border wall and vote in committee and open session so we can see, congressman by congressman where they stand on this issue. But since that’s clearly not how congress works anymore, the national defense option is the logical alternative. 

The president ran on the idea of securing our Southern border with a wall. He won the election on that idea. It’s time for him to fulfill that promise. Build that wall, General Mattis


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