The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 1:00 am

3 state military bases in line to lose funds to border wall

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Nearly $46 million intended for construction projects at three military bases in Indiana could be diverted to the expansion of barriers along the U.S. border with Mexico, the Defense Department said this week.

The projects in potential jeopardy are at the Grissom Air Reserve Base southwest of Peru, the Crane Army Ammunition Activity plant southwest of Bloomington and Terre Haute's Hulman Regional Airport, which is used by the Air National Guard's 181st Intelligence Wing.

The Pentagon on Monday sent to members of Congress a list of planned military construction projects across the nation totaling $12.9 billion that have not been awarded and said the money might instead be used to install border barriers under President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration, according to news media reports.

The Trump administration had warned in February it would reallocate military construction money to build barriers along the southern border to stem illegal immigration, human trafficking and the flow of illegal drugs. Since then, the House and Senate have voted to overturn Trump's emergency declaration, but he vetoed their resolution last week.

Republican federal lawmakers representing northeast Indiana, each of whom has supported beefing up border security, on Tuesday played down the release of the list of potentially endangered projects.

“There is a national emergency at our southern border. I am confident that we can secure our borders and continue to support critical projects here in Indiana that keep our nation safe,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, said in a statement. Banks is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., called the Pentagon's announcement “a speculative list.”

“The Senate is working with defense officials to find resources in their $717 billion annual budget that will secure our southern border with minimal effect on military construction projects,” Braun said in a statement.

The office of Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said in an email that the Pentagon list “is far from final.” His office said Young “will be working with the White House to ensure securing the border doesn't come at the expense of other national security priorities.”

The Indiana projects on the list would spend $21.5  million for the expansion of an aircraft maintenance hangar and construction of an aerial port facility at Grissom, $16 million for a railcar holding area at Crane and $8 million for a small-arms range at Hulman.

The list includes $105 million in planned projects in Ohio, including $61 million at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.

“The President's decision to go around Congress and take funding away from our military to support his vanity project is reckless and irresponsible,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement to that he will urge the Trump administration to refrain from using military construction money on border barriers. Portman was among a dozen GOP senators who joined minority Democrats in voting to overturn Trump's emergency declaration.

A Defense Department fact sheet stated that its “potential pool of sources of military construction funds” for border barriers would exclude military housing and any project with award dates before Oct. 1.

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