Acting US defense secretary will review programs to cut for wall funding

Posted at 9:21 AM, Feb 17, 2019

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said, beginning Sunday, he will start studying which projects military money may come from to shift funds toward a border wall following President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration.

Trump on Friday declared a national emergency to secure federal funds to build a wall on the southern border, bypassing Congress after lawmakers refused to meet his multi-billion dollar request for border wall funds.

The administration has said $2.5 billion of military narcotics funding and $3.6 billion in military construction money will be diverted to the wall. But Shanahan will have final say on how much will be taken from which programs.

A military official said Shanahan is likely to approve the $3.6 billion figure.

"I think I have a lot of discretion," Shanahan told reporters on a flight from Munich to the US Saturday. "You can trust the numbers in terms of the potential. Then you gotta marry it up with where the money would be spent."

One area that will not be touched is military housing, Shanahan said.

Under Trump's emergency declaration, Shanahan also has to determine whether border barriers are necessary to support the use of the armed forces.

"There've been no determinations by me, so that's what I'll be doing tomorrow," Shanahan said. "But I just want to make a point of this: we are following the law, using the rules, and we're not bending the rules."

Shanahan will receive a full briefing from the service secretaries in the next few days about the potential programs from which the money may be taken, as well as other details after some initial planning, a defense official told reporters.

"The joint staff is determining which barriers should be prioritized along the southwest border from a military perspective analysis," the defense official who spoke on background said.

"I'll go in and review that analysis now that the emergency has been declared," Shanahan said. "Based on that, we can do an assessment of what would be appropriate."