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House Armed Services Committee 'denies' Pentagon's transfer of $1 billion to fund a border fence

This move could have implications in the future

HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to the Pentagon, denying its transfer of $1 billion in existing Defense Department funding in order to pay for the construction of a portion of border barrier between the U.S. and Mexico.

What funding?

On Monday, the Pentagon sent a notification to Congress announcing its plans to reallocate $1 billion in existing funds to pay for the construction of 57 miles of "18-foot-high pedestrian fencing" along the U.S. border with Mexico.

That same day, the Senate Appropriations Committee sent a letter to acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan calling the move a "dollar-for-dollar theft from other readiness needs of our Armed Forces."

What did the committee say?

On Tuesday, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing regarding Pentagon funding for 2020. During the hearing, Shanahan admitted that moving the funds around was a politically risky move.

"The discussion … is that by unilaterally reprogramming, it was going to affect our ability long term to be able to do discretionary reprogramming that we had traditionally done in coordination," Shanahan said, according to Politico. "It was a very difficult discussion, and we understand the significant downsides of losing what amounts to a privilege."

Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) sent a letter to the Pentagon's comptroller, David L. Norquist, on Tuesday, saying that the committee had "completed its review of the proposed reprogramming request" that "would transfer approximately $1.0 billion among fiscal year 2019 appropriations.

"The committee denies this request," Smith continued. "The committee does not approve the use of Department of Defense Funds to construct additional physical barriers and roads or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border."

Can the committee do that?

It's not clear whether or not the committee's disapproval can actually stop the transfer of funds. Since the funds were already granted to the Pentagon and since the Pentagon is following through on President Donald Trump's emergency declaration, it's possible that the committee has no authority in this case.

According to Reuters, the Pentagon believes that it is well within its legal right to move the funds without congressional authorization. If this does turn out to be the case, the committee's disapproval would be symbolic, but would not actually stop the funds from being reallocated.

However, this move could have implications for future spending bills and might leave the Pentagon with less leeway in how freely it can move funds from one area to another. These are the "downsides" that Shanahan referred to during the hearing.

TheBlaze has reached out to Smith's office for comment.

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