Three members of Congress from New York are urging leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to prevent President Trump from redirecting funding for military projects to a wall at the southern border.
A letter to the chair and ranking member of each Armed Services Committee is signed by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, all Democrats. They say the Pentagon’s decision to divert $3.6 billion allocated for 127 military construction projects includes $160 million for projects at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, in Maloney’s 18th District.
“In our area, we’re talking about the cemetery at West Point. You’re literally talking about the final resting place for some of the greatest heroes in American military history. They are right now trying to expand and improve that hallowed ground. That is what’s going to take a hit so the president can go around Congress, go around the Constitution and fund this vanity project of his,” Maloney says. “We’re talking about the engineering center at West Point. We’re talking about the water treatment plant at West Point. We’re talking about the facilities that support these cadets that are the next generation of military leaders. That’s the military’s priority by the way. You know how I know? Because that’s what they wanted in the budget, not the wall.”
Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, a West Point graduate, talks more about one of the cuts.
“One of the cuts of the $160 million being cut from West Point is a cybersecurity and engineering research center,” Ryan says. “We all agree if we’re going to position our military for the future threats and challenges we face, cybersecurity and engineering are at the top of that. That’s just absolutely wrong.”
In his September 3 memo to armed forces committee leaders, Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the Department of Defense will reprogram $3.6 billion in funds appropriated for military construction and maintenance to 11 military construction projects along the U.S. border with Mexico. Senator Schumer:
“Taking money away from construction at West Point made no sense,” Schumer says. “It was a slap in the face of all those who work hard at West Point and the whole military.”
Esper says reprogramming the funding is in response to President Trump’s February 15 proclamation of a national emergency at the southern border that requires the use of the armed forces. Schumer takes issue with what constitutes an emergency.
“This was not the emergency that Congress intended when they passed this law, I think it’s in the 70s. It was a true emergency — war, people at risk, etcetera — and you wouldn’t want to go through Congress to rearrange money if you needed it immediately. So believe there’s a good chance it will be beaten in court,” says Schumer. “We are also trying to pass legislation in the upcoming budget which would constrict the president’s ability any of this money into the wall.”
He believes there will be new court cases regarding those negatively impacted by the funding move. Maloney says the funds for the West Point projects were already appropriated.
“The trick is whether they’ve been obligated or whether they’re in the pipeline .So the exact list is hard do know but, previously, the secretary of the Army has listed that I’m mentioning. So don’t take my word for it. The secretary of the Army has said this is what’s on the chopping block, and God knows what else, frankly, because you’re talking about $3.6 billion,” says Maloney. “We are, the last time I checked, the largest construction project in the army is right here at West Point, number one. And so if you’re looking for military construction dollars, that’s where you going to go. And that’s why those project I mentioned, the cemetery, the engineering center, the waste treatment plant over at West Point are all going to pay the price for this move the president’s pulling.”
Ulster County Executive Ryan served two combat tours in Iraq as an Army intelligence officer.
“I’m really concerned when, about any cuts to our military. As a veteran, that’s particularly important to me,” says Ryan. “And, as Ulster County executive, a lot of the economic activity is tied to the economy here in Ulster County. To see a reduced investment in our military academy goes absolutely counter to what I think most people would want to see.”
Maloney says the four projects on the chopping block at West Point have undergone a review process by the military and by Congress and were determined necessary for military operations.