The Biden administration announced Friday it is cancelling Defense Department funding of the border wall ordered by President Trump. This is the latest move by Biden to stop wall construction short of that planned by Trump to secure the border with Mexico. Biden ordered a halt to review border wall construction upon taking office January 20. The White House has since said they would consider fillings gaps in the wall caused by the sudden stop, but not completion.
Illegal alien migrants gather at unfinished border wall to be let in U.S. by Biden administration, March 2021.
DOD Release Regarding Cancellation of Border Barrier Project Cancellation
Today, the Department of Defense released the following statement on the cancellation of all border barrier construction projects paid for with funds originally intended for military missions and projects.
“Consistent with the President’s proclamation, the Department of Defense is proceeding with canceling all border barrier construction projects paid for with funds originally intended for other military missions and functions such as schools for military children, overseas military construction projects in partner nations, and the National Guard and Reserve equipment account,” said Jamal Brown, Deputy Pentagon Spokesman. “DOD has begun taking all necessary actions to cancel border barrier projects and to coordinate with interagency partners. Today’s action reflects this Administration’s continued commitment to defending our nation and supporting our service members and their families.”
With this cancellation, unobligated military construction funds that had been diverted from military construction projects will be used for previously deferred military construction projects, allowing some of these critical efforts to move forward as soon as possible. The Department is reviewing the deferred project list to determine funding prioritization.
The Department will continue to work with its interagency partners regarding any additional steps that should be taken at construction sites affected by project cancellation.
The Washington Post reported about $2.6 billion of Pentagon money was unspent on the wall (excerpt):
Friday’s joint announcement from the departments of Defense and Homeland Security did not indicate how much money the cancellation will save, nor whether leftover funds would be used to pay demobilization costs to contractors whose bulldozers and excavators were brought to a halt on Jan. 20.
An estimate prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers last fall determined there would be about $3.3 billion in leftover funds if Biden chose not to proceed with Trump’s construction plans for about 285 additional miles of border barriers. The government would save about $2.6 billion after paying demobilization costs to contractors, the estimate found.
It’s also unclear the fate of unfinished border wall segments funded with about $5 billion in congressional appropriations to DHS during Trump’s term. GOP critics of Biden’s decision insist he is legally obligated to spend the funds on barrier construction, but Democrats want leftover DHS construction funds to be used on border improvement and security projects.
In a separate statement Friday, DHS said it would use congressionally appropriated funds to repair flood levees in the lower Rio Grande Valley that were damaged during border wall construction. The effort will not expand the barrier, the department said.
Roll Call reported Friday the GAO is reviewing Biden’s freeze on spending funds Congressionally appropriated for the wall (excerpt):
As soon as next month, the Government Accountability Office will issue an opinion on the legality of Biden’s decision to hold up more than $1 billion in construction funding for a southern border wall.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, began work on the opinion after Republican lawmakers accused Biden of breaking budget law by stopping construction of the border wall and pausing the obligation of the funds.
“We do have right now, pending, a decision that we’re working on,” said Edda Emmanuelli Perez, the GAO’s deputy general counsel, who testified Thursday at a House Budget Committee hearing. She said GAO asked the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland Security to provide factual and legal views to the GAO, “and we’re expecting their responses right now mid to late next week.”
Even before lawmakers requested an opinion in March, Perez said, the GAO began to explore the withholding of funds after Biden paused construction of the border wall on his first day in office. The administration said it wanted a chance to conduct a study of alternative uses for the funds.
USA Today reporter Courtney Subramanian quoted an unnamed Biden official trashing President Trump’s wall, saying it diverted resources from fighting human trafficking, “”Border wall construction under the previous Administration tied up more than $14 billion in taxpayer funds, shortchanged our military, and diverted attention away from genuine security challenges, like human traffickers,” an administration official said. “Rushed and haphazard wall construction also resulted in serious life, safety, and environmental issues,” the official said.”
“Rushed and haphazard wall construction also resulted in serious life, safety, and environmental issues,” the official said.
— Courtney Subramanian (@cmsub) April 30, 2021