'Class of 2019 dismissed': AFA cadets celebrate graduation in grand fashion

President Donald Trump walks by cadets before the start of Air Force Academy graduation. Photo by Jerilee Bennett

About $8 million for a project at Peterson Air Force Base could be diverted to build President Donald Trump’s border wall that Congress has refused to appropriate money for.

The money intended for Peterson is part of the $3.6 billion the Trump administration is taking from Pentagon construction budgets to build a wall along part of the U.S.-Mexico border, Colorado Springs U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn confirmed Wednesday.

The money was to be used for a new space control facility, said Lamborn, who was briefed on the move by an undersecretary of the Air Force.

Lamborn said in a telephone call he supports building the wall but isn’t pleased that money is coming from military projects.

“We’re not happy with where each dollar is coming from, but we understand the need.”

The border wall, which Trump has said is needed to prevent the flow of immigrants and drugs into the U.S., has been a signature promise since he kicked off his presidential campaign in 2015.

It has been stymied, however, by Congress’ refusal to appropriate the billions Trump has requested, first by Republicans when they controlled the House and Senate and now by Democrats, who took over the House last year.

Critics of Trump’s plan say the wall will neither halt immigrants from entering the country illegally nor stem the flow of drugs.

The Trump administration this week announced that it planned to take $1.8 billion in unspent construction cash from domestic military projects and $1.8 billion from military construction projects overseas.

According to an estimate by the Center for American Progress, diverting the money from military construction projects to the border wall will cost 36,000 jobs nationwide. The Trump administration contends no jobs will be lost because construction workers will be hired to build the wall.

The Pentagon’s decision follows a February emergency declaration by Trump that White House officials say allows the reallocation of money Congress appropriated as part of the Defense budget.

But Democrats and other critics say those emergency powers were intended solely for wartime.

Lamborn said the Pentagon decision to move the money “will likely end up in the courts.”

Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump in 2020, slammed Trump’s proposed use of military money for the wall.

“President Trump’s selfish decision to raid military construction funding is a new low in his ridiculous pursuit of a campaign promise.”

Lamborn said diverting the money intended for a space control facility won’t affect the competition for U.S. Space Command headquarters.

Officially established last month, the command oversees the space efforts of all military branches and is based temporarily in Colorado Springs. California, Alabama and Florida are also vying for its permanent location.

Lamborn had not been told if money also would be diverted from Fort Carson construction work to build the border wall. The administration earlier threatened to pull $77 million from a vehicle maintenance facility at Fort Carson but backed down from that proposal.

In a statement released Thursday morning, Lamborn supported the president's efforts to build the wall. He noted that the project at Peterson was the only Colorado project affected by the move and pointed out that the shift of funds only involved funds allotted after fiscal year 2019.

He also expressed optimism that the funding for the wall would end up having a positive effect on the Department of Defense.

"Barriers at the southern border will eventually free up Custom and Border Protection's reliance on DoD assets to help with the border crisis," he said.

The $8 million project on the chopping block is a small part of $325 million in construction cash proposed for Colorado Springs-area bases in 2020.

The Peterson project and others would be spared if Congress comes up with money for the border wall.

Congress, which is in the final stages of debating a defense policy bill, is split on funding for the wall. Senate Republicans largely approve Trump’s wall plans, while House Democrats want to block it.

The House-approved version of the Defense policy bill includes a provision that would block the reallocation of money for the wall. The Senate version of the measure has no similar provision, leaving it up to a bicameral conference committee to hammer out a deal.

Trump has pledged to veto the defense bill if its final version includes a ban on wall funding.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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