DHS seeks 270 miles of border wall using counter-narcotics funds

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A senior Department of Defense official on January 16 said that the Pentagon had received a new request from the Trump-led administration to build a wall of roughly 270 miles on the border with Mexico, adding that they are working on its cost and feasibility of the request.

Because the request is to ostensibly help combat drug smuggling, the Pentagon will be allowed to construct these barriers under its pre-existing "284" counter drug authority, which allows the Defense Department to build barriers, lighting and roads for the objective of countering drug trafficking, according to the official.

The request comes in sharp disagreements over the border wall between President Donald Trump and members of Congress who have spoken out against using military funds for construction. In his 2016 campaign, Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall.

Instead, money has been diverted to military construction projects and drug bans funding, which is a continuing source of conflict between democratic lawmakers and Trump on budget bills each year. Some of the sectors are reportedly in highly trafficked urban areas where existing walls or fences are "dilapidated", according to the officials.


In prepared statements Tuesday, three leading Democrats, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Rep. In total, about $12 billion has been allocated for the wall. And they said the Pentagon's two-week review will assess if the request meets legal requirements and seeks feasible construction.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper signalled earlier this week he would not oppose some new diversion of funds for border wall construction, saying the border was a security issue and that the Pentagon was committed to supporting DHS' mission.

Last year Trump was forced to settle for just $1.4 billion in wall funding following the longest government shutdown in history. And billions more have been requested. The Supreme Court had previously allowed the administration to proceed with construction using $2.5 billion in Pentagon counter-drug funding while litigation in that case continued.

The funding, similar to a year ago, will be pulled from military construction projects such as repairing schools and water treatment centers on U.S. bases, counter-drug insurgency operations, and the minimal funds that have been made available to the Puerto Rico National Guard for rebuilding efforts following 2017's Hurricane Maria and the recent barrage of earthquakes that have struck the island. Military construction money is being used for another 175 miles. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said that the agency is planning to build around 724 km of the wall by the end of 2020 and another 95 km will be under construction.

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