WH returns Pentagon military funds diverted for border wall

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2019 (Xinhua) — The photo taken on July 16, 2019 shows U.S. Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper attending a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States. The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Mark Esper as secretary of defense, ending a nearly seven-month period that the Pentagon has been without a permanent chief. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua/IANS)

Washington, June 12 (IANS) The White House announced that it has returned more than $2 billion of military funds to the Pentagon that former President Donald Trump had diverted for building the controversial border wall on the country’s southern border with Mexico.

The funds will now be used for 66 military projects in 11 states, 3 US territories and 16 countries, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a statement issued on Friday.

“The effort diverted critical resources away from military training facilities and schools, and caused serious risks to life, safety, and the environment,”Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying.

“It also took attention away from genuine security challenges, like drug smuggling and human trafficking.”

During the Trump administration, the federal government built 52 miles of the wall along the US-Mexico border, according to the OMB, with some stretches of barrier costing as much as $46 million per mile.

“Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of Federal funds. Most contraband is likely to come through legal ports of entry. And many families fleeing the violence in Central America are voluntarily presenting themselves to border patrol officials,” OMB said in its fact sheet.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is cancelling 20 contracts for border wall construction, their commanding general Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon testified to Congress this week.

Recipients of the restored funds include two Marine battalions in North Carolina; an Air Guard marksmanship training program in Indiana; two missile interceptors in Fort Greely, Alaska and an elementary school for the children of US service members stationed in Germany.

The fiscal year 2022 budget of President Joe Biden’s administration includes more than $1 billion for border infrastructure improvement, but no additional funding for wall building.

In one of his first actions after swearing in, Biden ordered a halt in border wall construction, calling for a review of relative projects and funds.

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