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Anniston Depot project on DOD cut list to pay for border wall

From staff and wire reports

A $5.2 million allocation to Anniston Army Depot is on a list of military construction projects that could be cut in order to divert U.S. Department of Defense dollars to the proposed wall on the U.S.’s southern border.

The Pentagon this week sent a 20-page list of military construction projects to Congress that might be slashed to pay for President Donald Trump’s wall along the Mexican border.

$5.2 million for Anniston Army Depot in Alabama to build a weapons maintenance shop that was due to be awarded in March 2020 could be cut.

Also on the Pentagon’s list were a $38 million allocation to build a training support facility at Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass and two Maxwell Air Force Base projects: a $15.5 JAG school expansion and the much-anticipated $18 million air traffic control tower. However, because the Fort Rucker and Maxwell Air Force Base projects are due to be funded in 2019, they would not be impacted, the document said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said if money were taken from installations, he’d work to replace it. Shelby is Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and also leads the subcommittee that specifically handles defense funds.

“Securing our southern border is of the utmost importance, Shelby told Alabama Daily News in an emailed statement. “While no final decisions have been made regarding specific funds to be used for border projects, I will work with my colleagues to backfill any funding that may be diverted from military construction projects.”

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama,  said he believes Trump’s national emergency declaration last month was an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers. Jones sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I voted to rescind the national emergency declaration because these projects, and so many like them across the country, are vital to our national defense and our economy, particularly Alabama’s,” Jones said in a statement to Alabama Daily News this week. “We simply cannot allow this administration, or any other administration, to raid the coffers of our military and re-allocate those funds in a way that has not been approved by Congress.”

The Pentagon document listed hundreds of projects envisioned around the U.S. and world worth around $12.9 billion. Not all will be subject to cuts, the Defense Department wrote, making it difficult to determine exactly which would be vulnerable.

The list included more than $100 million for water treatment plant improvements at Camp Lejeune and airfield security and other work at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina. Also listed were an air traffic control tower at Fort Benning, Georgia; a maintenance hangar at Travis Air Force Base in California; and a drone hangar at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

Trump declared a national emergency at the Mexican boundary last month after Congress limited him to just under $1.4 billion to build border barriers. He invoked a law that would let him siphon other budget funds — $3.6 billion from military construction — to build the structures and fulfill his prime 2016 campaign promise.

The House voted to block his emergency by 245-182 in February. The Senate followed last week by 59-41, including a dozen GOP defections. Lawmakers expressed concerns that Trump was ignoring Congress’ constitutional control over spending and worries about the cuts’ impact back home. Trump vetoed the bill Friday.

In a letter accompanying the list, Defense Department officials said they wouldn’t touch items for which money would be awarded by the Sept. 30 end of this fiscal year or for projects like housing. They didn’t specify which would be exempted.

Even so, Democrats latched onto the potential cuts to drum up support for the veto override.

“What President Trump is doing is a slap in the face to our military that makes our border and the country less secure,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, said.

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