President Donald Trump is getting heavy pushback from top National Guard officials, advocates and the individual states for reprogramming funds from the Pentagon to build a wall on the southern border.
The White House diverted $3.8 billion in funds from the Defense Department’s 2020 budget, and has signaled it is considering moving as much as $7.2 billion.
The Adjutants General Association of the United States (AGAUS), the National Guard Association of the United States and the National Governors Association (NGA) areallmaking their voices heard in opposing the reprogramming of $1.7 billion of that money, which was supposed to be used for National Guard purposes.
“We believe the reprogramming of 2020 appropriations by the DoD disproportionately targets the National Guard and risks diminishing our lethal capability proven necessary during these decades of conflict,” a letter signed by the leadership of AGAUS, Matthew Quinn, Michael Loh and Timothy Williams, adjutants general of Montana, Colorado and Virginia, respectively.
The shift in funds targets $1.3 billion in the National Guard and Reserve Equipment account — a fund for the rapid procurement of support equipment and commercial off-the-shelf products.
The reprogramming also takes $100 million for the Army National Guard High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle modernization, $196 million for the Air National Guard C-130J and all funds for counter narcotics operations.
“The amount shouldered by the National Guard was 34% of the total funds reprogrammed,” the adjutants general wrote in a Feb. 20 letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. “The National Guard provides almost 40% of the combat force structure to the Army and Air Force for less than 5% of DoD’s military personnel and operations budgets. Targeting the National Guard for over 30 percent of these cuts unfairly burdens the most cost-effective combat force supporting the total United States military.”
They continue to explain that simultaneously moving funds from C-130J procurement, while retiring legacy aircraft will have a “compounding negative effect on National Guard readiness.”
In conjunction, the generals wrote that they supported DoD’s request for help in calling for increased defense funds during sequestration.
“We supported the Department’s position, because it was in the best interest of our nation and our Soldiers and Airmen,” they stated. “Now when faced with a difficult budget decision, it appears the Department turned its back on the Reserve Component and unfairly levied the burden of the costs on its operational and strategic reserve.”
NGA backed up AGAUS in a Feb. 24 statement.
“The readiness of the National Guard is paramount to protecting the homeland,” NGA stated. “Time and time again, with increasing frequency, the National Guard must answer the call to protect us from wildfires and hurricanes; flooding and landslides; and threats against our global and homeland security. Governors are united in urging the Administration to reverse course on the planned reprogramming and restore these critical funds.”
The rest of the $3.8 billion DoD reprogramming canceled F-35s and V-22 Ospreys as well as other DoD funding.
Lawmakers like House Armed Services Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), Committee Vice Chairman Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and others expressed displeasure about the total diversion of funds.
34 lawmakers sent a letter to Esper last month asking for more information on the funds.
“We have a budget agreement where we are going to fund the military at near record levels so we can ensure we have a ready force,” House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Anthony Brown (D-Md.) told Federal News Network. “That’s what our budget reflects. Our budget doesn’t reflect, nor was it designed, to account for several billion dollars being diverted.”
The letter asks DoD to provide a planned date for obligating funds, dates of the contract award, construction start and completion, a full list of military projects that will be delayed or canceled due to the transfer of funds and the impact on the volume and seizure of narcotics due to the transfer of funds.