With no end in sight to the standoff between the White House and congressional Democrats over ending the partial government shutdown, it is becoming increasingly likely that President Trump declares a national emergency to obtain the funds to build a border wall without congressional authorization. One option the White House is considering is tapping unobligated military construction funds through a statute authorizing the defense secretary to undertake construction projects “not otherwise authorized by law” to support any troops deployed in a national emergency requiring the use of the armed forces. Defense officials have told CNN that the department believes it has about $2.5 billion in milcon funds that have not yet been committed under a signed contract. DOD officials have been trying to resolve a handful of issues needed to implement a national emergency declaration, according to CNN.
The administration also is considering using non-military construction funds allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works program under a separate statutory authority. The White House is looking at the possibility of using $13.9 billion allocated in a disaster assistance bill but not yet spent. That measure was passed in response to the 2017 hurricane season, reported the Washington Post.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have come out in opposition to the prospect of the president taking DOD funds and applying them to the construction of a border wall. Such a move almost certainly would trigger legal challenges from parties directly affected by the construction of a border wall.
Army photo by 2nd Lt. Corey Maisch