School construction among projects being cut to pay for Trump's border wall

Washington — To build parts of President Trump's long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the administration is planning on diverting billions of dollars in military funds originally allocated to build, maintain and renovate shooting ranges, roads, missile launch pads, hangars and even schools for children at military bases and facilities in the U.S. and abroad. 

After authorizing the transfer of $3.6 billion in military construction funds to erect approximately 175 miles of border barriers, the Pentagon on Wednesday revealed more information about the projects that will be affected by the move. The planned multi-billion-dollar transfer — which has been strongly denounced by Democrats — is expected to defund more than 120 construction projects that the military was hoping to conduct over the next years. 

Documents obtained by CBS News show the reprogramming request by the White House will divert funds that the Pentagon had previously designated for a diverse set of projects in the U.S. and around the world, from a missile facility in Alaska and an engineering center at the U.S. Army Academy at West Point, to a hangar at a U.S. Air Force Base in Japan and a veterinary facility for working dogs at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. 

Funds for the construction of schools at military bases and facilities will be transferred to finance the construction of border barriers, including a $62,634,000 grant for a middle school at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and a $56,048,000 grant for an elementary school for children of U.S. troops stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. 

In this June 29, 2017 photo made available by the U.S. Air Force, an F-15 fighter plane taxis back to the hangar at Kadena Air Base, Japan.  Greg Erwin / AP

The administration will also divert grants for military construction projects to renovate or replace facilities in Puerto Rico that were damaged by the Hurricane Maria.

The largest overseas project set to be affected is a $119,000,000 grant for warehouses at the U.S. Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany. In the U.S., the largest grant affected would be $88,960,000 funds to extend the pier at the U.S. Navy base in Bangor, Washington. 

Most of the affected projects were slated to receive the grants in 2020 or 2021 and some had previously been cancelled. On Wednesday, a Pentagon official told CBS News the department will look to offset the transfer by asking Congress for more money to fund the affected projects. The official said the projects will not be delayed if additional funds are approved by lawmakers but cautioned that there is no guarantee that will occur. 

U.S. troops gather on the USS Wasp where U.S. President Donald Trump will deliver Memorial Day remarks to the troops, at the U.S. Military Base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. Eugene Hoshiko / AP

The decision to transfer $3.6 billion from the military to finance the construction of border barriers, along with Secretary of Defense Mike Esper's authorization on Tuesday, have been widely criticized by Democrats, who have accused the administration of politicizing resources for U.S. service members.  

"The American people cannot be asked to foot the bill a second time for projects that this administration has decided are less important than a vanity wall that will do nothing to end the humanitarian crisis on the southern border or protect our national security," Senators Brian Schatz of Hawaii Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dick Durbin of Illinois wrote in a joint statement. "The President promised that Mexico would pay for his wall, not the military and their families."  

The American Civil Liberties Union has said it will mount a legal challenge to try to stop the $3.6 billion transfer, which represents the second move by administration to divert billions in military funds for construction along the southern border. The administration has already been using some of the $2.5 billion funds it diverted from the Pentagon earlier this year, since the Supreme Court said it could do so while a legal challenge to that transfer proceeds in court. 

To justify both transfers, the administration has relied on the controversial national emergency declaration the president made in February after the Democratic-led House refused to approve his multi-billion-dollar demand for border wall funding.  

David Martin and Rebecca Kaplan contributed reporting. 

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