During his remarks in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, President Donald Trump said that top officials at the Pentagon support his efforts to repurpose military funds for constructing a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
According to The Hill, Trump said, “Some of the generals think this is more important.”
“We had certain funds that are being used at the discretion of generals, at the discretion of the military. Some of them haven’t been allocated yet, and some of the generals think that this is more important.”
He continued: “I was speaking to a couple of them. They think this is far more important than what they were going to use it for. I said ‘what were you going to use it for?’ And I won’t go into details but [it] didn’t sound too important to me.”
The president justified using the funds for his wall by pointing to the overall massive budget he has secured for the U.S. military:
“I’ve gotten $700 billion for the military in year one, and then last year $716 billion, and we’re rebuilding our military, but we have a lot. ... When I need $2 billion, $3 billion, out of that for a wall ... this is a very, very small amount that we’re asking for.”
But lawmakers disagree that taking money from the military budget is no big deal. The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee's military construction panel, Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, tweeted on Friday that there will be “dire consequences” for repurposing any amount of funds.
“The Military Construction funding process is rigorous. The five-year plan comes from all service branches prioritizing key projects and the Committee funding it. Whether it’s dry docks or clinics or [hangars] or runways, there is not [$3.5 billion] to remove without dire consequences,” he wrote.
And it isn’t just Democrats voicing disapproval.
House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry(R-Texas) said in a statement Thursday that he encourages Trump “not to divert significant Department of Defense funding for border security.”
“Doing so would have detrimental consequences for our troops as military infrastructure was one of the accounts most deprived during the Obama-era defense cuts. And it would undercut one of the most significant accomplishments of the last two years – beginning to repair and rebuild our military. I hope that the President will pursue other options,” Thornberry wrote.