After failing to secure funding from Congress for new border barriers, Donald Trump started raiding the Defense Department's budget, redirecting money away from the military and toward his misguided "wall" initiative.
It wasn't long before U.S. military officials raised the alarm about possible consequences. Last fall, for example, NBC News obtained a report compiled by the U.S. Air Force, which concluded that money diverted away from military construction projects "poses various national security risks for the U.S. armed forces." Soon after, the Washington Post ran this striking report on warnings from military leaders about "dire outcomes" as a result of the White House's scheme.
Evidently, the pushback wasn't persuasive -- because the Pentagon's budget is still being raided. Bloomberg News reported this week that Defense Secretary Mark Esper is shifting a half-billion dollars worth of construction projects -- "many in Europe meant to counter Russian aggression" -- to finance construction of the president's so-called "wall."
In a memo sent Monday to the Pentagon's comptroller and other officials, Esper lists several projects in Norway, Germany, Spain and elsewhere totaling more than $200 million from which he says funds can be redirected. Those projects are all part of the European Deterrence Initiative designed to bolster allies and undermine Russia's growing influence on the continent. The projects include infrastructure for military aircraft, fuel, munitions and cargo.
The report added that Esper's initiative "would appear to conflict with the National Defense Strategy, which prioritizes 'great power competition' with Russia and China."
This wouldn't ordinarily be possible, but the president early last year declared a national emergency at the border. Even at the time, Trump effectively admitted that there was no emergency, but for the sake of convenience, he was issuing the declaration anyway.
"I didn't need to do this," the president conceded in February 2019.