Administration cuts two Navy ships from 2020 budget to help pay for border wall

Written by Nick Blenkey
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The Trump Administration is taking a reprogramming action that will see the Department of Defense transfer $3.8 billion in defense funding in response to a Department of Homeland Security request for “support for DHS counter-drug activity.”

The $3.8 billion includes $991 billion in Navy shipbuilding funds for two ships, LHA-9 ($650 million) and an Expeditionary Fast Transport ($261 million).

The support requested by DHS is, essentially, for the much publicized border wall

According to a document sent to Congress, “DHS has identified areas along the southern border of the United States that are being used by individuals, groups, and transnational criminal organizations as drug smuggling corridors, and determined that the construction of additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border is necessary in order to impede and deny drug smuggling activities.”

“Title 10, U.S. Code, Section 284(b)(7) authorizes the DoD to support counterdrug activities of other Federal agencies through the construction of roads and fences, and the installation of lighting, to block drug smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States,” says the document. “Such support is funded using the DoD’s Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities appropriation.”

Here’s what the document says about the two Navy ships that are being defunded:

“Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) ship funding is early to current programmatic need,” says the document. “The procurement funds are not required until FY 2023. This is a congressional special interest item.”

“The Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) funding is excess to current programmatic need,” continues the document. “The procurement exceeds the program-of-record requirement. This is a congressional special interest item.”

Both ships are “congressional special interest items” in that they were added to the appropriations by Congress even though they were not in the Navy budget request.

Congressman Joe Courtney (D. Conn.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, called the reprogramming “a hit-and-run strike on the 2020 defense budget, which the President just signed into law on December 20.”

“That budget,” he said, “represented a year of diligent, bipartisan work that took the Pentagon’s initial request, and with the able help of professional staff, produced a final product that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

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