Defense Secretary Mark Esper, center, shown here at an April 1 White House briefing, has proposed shifting funds from overseas military construction in order to finance domestic construction projects paused in favor of the border wall. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo
April 29 (UPI) -- Defense Secretary Mark Esper is restoring funding for domestic military construction projects that were postponed in order to fund construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border -- by diverting funds from military construction projects overseas.
According to a memo obtained by Politico and The Hill, Esper plans to shift $545.5 million in previously withheld funds with award dates in 2020 for suspended U.S. construction projects.
The projects listed in the memo include two projects at West Point -- totaling $160 million -- and a $62.6 million middle school project at Ft. Campbell in Kentucky.
Democrats have criticized the diversion of funds, saying it makes an end run around Congress' fiscal oversight powers, and on Wednesday unveiled a bill limiting the president's ability to alter Congressionally appropriated funds.
"The President falsely takes credit for 'rebuilding' the military, when in reality his theft of DoD dollars has led to the cancellation of 128 military construction projects both at home and abroad," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in a statement sent to UPI.
"Now -- despite Congress' refusal to endorse this theft -- the Trump Administration is attempting to backfill these projects by cutting funding for the European Deterrence Initiative and other overseas projects. Our partners and allies rely on the support of EDI funds to prevent Russian aggression in the region and these cuts will have real, lasting effects on our national security," Smith said.
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chairwoman of the subcommittee in charge of military construction, also said many of the canceled European Deterrence Initiative projects were designed to prevent "Russian aggression against American allies and partners in Europe."