- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A group of more than two dozen House lawmakers are “strongly” urging Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to reconsider directing over $7 billion of Pentagon funds toward construction of the southern border wall.

The Democratic members are warning that the White House’s reported plans to move the funds from military construction and counter-narcotic budgets to pay for border construction would hurt military readiness and modernization.

“A decision by the administration to once more cancel military construction projects … will cause a lasting detriment to our ability to build and sustain readiness, meet the security challenges we face, and to honor our promises to our armed forces and their families,” the members wrote.

Led by Rep. Anthony Brown, the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, 30 members joined in penning the strongly worded letter to Mr. Esper that expressed “continued and deepening concern” over the move.

The latest move comes roughly one week after committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, vowed to fight any potential move by the administration to use $7.2 billion of military funds in addition to $6.1 billion that was moved from the Pentagon budgets to build parts of the border wall last year.

“This would bring the total amount of Department of Defense funding to a total of $13.3 billion in transfers,” the lawmakers noted, “more than the full unit acquisition cost of a Ford-class aircraft carrier, the entire research and development cost for the Columbia class of submarines, or the $10.6 billion to purchase 98 F-35s in FY2020.”

Last year, the Pentagon published a list of projects that would be “paused” in order to finance more border wall construction, including repairs to military bases that have been damaged in recent hurricanes or natural disasters, and improvements to schools in bases around the world.

“We hope you take into consideration how such a move would impact our ability to modernize our military, restore and sustain readiness, and execute the National Defense Strategy,” the lawmakers wrote.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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