The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757) and the Submarine Support Vessel (SSV) Carolyn Chouest sit covered in snow on a blustery, snowy day at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton. U.S. Navy photo by John Narewski
An aerial view of attack submarines at Naval Submarine Base New London, which is located in Groton. U.S. Navy / John Narewski file photo

Washington —  Congress approved nearly $72.3 million to build a new pier at Naval Submarine Base New London, but the money may be snatched away to help build President Donald Trump’s wall along the Rio Grande.

The money for the pier, the largest construction funding appropriated for the Groton sub base in years, is among $10.5 billion Congress appropriated for military construction at U.S. bases across the nation and overseas, money that is spent on housing and schools, airplane hangars, base training centers — and new piers for submarines.

But because Congress only approved about $1.4 billion for the border wall project, Trump is preparing to divert $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for construction of the barrier this year.

The money would be drawn from military construction, or milcon, projects and Pentagon counter-narcotics funding. The administration plans to siphon $3.7 billion from military construction projects and $3.5 billion from military counter-drug programs.

This would be the second time Trump diverts Pentagon money for his wall.

Last year, 127 military construction projects across 23 states, three U.S. territories and 20 countries were sidelined to pay for Trump’s border wall.

The administration has not yet released a specific list of projects they plan to target this year.

This means all projects are on the table, including the proposed new pier at the submarine base, which is needed to accommodate the larger Virginia-class submarines Electric Boat is building under its new contract with the Navy.

Rep. Joe Courtney says the criteria the Trump administration will use in diverting military construction money is a “mystery.”
Rep. Joe Courtney says the criteria the Trump administration will use in diverting military construction money is a “mystery.”

“Trying to figure out what the criteria is for reprogramming is a mystery,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District. “The administration is just reaching into milcon.”

Courtney said he has discussed the fate of the pier’s funding with base officials and they have determined “the quicker the funds can be obligated, the better.”

That means the quicker the Navy can commit the money to contracts to build the pier, the more protected that funding will be.

“Hopefully there is some ranking of projects as far as national security,” said Courtney, the chairman of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee.

If that were the case, Courtney said, the submarine fleet would be high on that ranking.

The diversion of Pentagon money has angered Democrats and unsettled a number of Republicans who have important construction projects in their districts and states.

“The president intends to double down on his smash-and-grab strategy of funding his border wall. To say this is unacceptable and infuriating would be an understatement,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

On the campaign trail, Trump said Mexico would pay for a wall along the southern border. But that seemed unlikely and never came to pass.

So Trump turned to Congress for funding. After Democrats successfully blocked appropriating most of the money the president said is needed to build his wall, Trump then used what he determined were his emergency powers to reallocate money in the Pentagon’s budget.

Last year, Republican lawmakers pressed for “backfilling,” or replacing, the money for the $3.6 billion worth of construction projects that lost their funding in this year’s budget. But Democrats stood firm and prevailed in their refusal to replace that money, arguing Trump’s action violates constitutionally mandated power of the purse.

A similar showdown is expected if Trump follows through on his plan to raid military construction money again this year.

That means that if the pier money is diverted to build the border wall, it may be hard to replace.

There’s a concern the maintenance of military facilities is falling behind. Military construction projects currently have a $116 billion backlog. And the reprograming of Pentagon funds has also riled immigrant advocacy groups that oppose the creation of a border wall.

One of those groups, America’s Voice, is running ads against several GOP senators up for re-election, including Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas. Those lawmakers have home state military projects that are vulnerable to reprograming, but have supported Trump’s claim he has emergency powers to divert funding.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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13 Comments

  1. Sen. Leahy—“The president intends to double down on his smash-and-grab strategy of funding his border wall.”

    Sorry, Senator. “Smash and grab” is the policy that Dems and some Rs push for. You allow people from other countries to ‘smash’ their way in (in violation of the law) and ‘grab’ benefits and privileges reserved for citizens and those who follow immigration law. They also frequently displace citizen workers, drive down labor rates and often send their money out of the country. Many don’t pay income taxes as they either work ‘off the books’ or, if they file with TINs, end up getting refunds under the EIC. Then you fight to keep them here.

  2. This seems like an excellent tradeoff. Lets stem the flow of undocumented Democrats and restore sanity to the immigration process.

    No borders, no country.

    1. So you’d rather have the money illegally diverted to pay for an ineffective border wall than towards updating the infrastructure vital to accommodating the new Virginia and Columbia class subs which EB was rewarded with contracts worth billions to build? Subs that will protect us much more effectively than a few miles of easily-avoided, (or just climbed over), wall. This project is vital to the state, bringing in hundreds, if not thousands of new, high-paying jobs. Yeah, diverting the funding sounds perfectly sane to me!

      1. Yes. If its truly illegal, have your heroes in Washington stop it. These same people see no issue with illegally protecting millions of people who entered our country illegally in sanctuary cities. They also turn a blind eye to illegal immigration at our porous southern border which strains our resources and is dead wrong. They show they really don’t care about the sovereignty of our borders and would rather jawbone about Trump than get something constructive done.

  3. Security is the President’s job. Congress should fund the wall. Connecticut Senators and Representatives should support the POTUS and fund the wall but instead they are wasting precious taxpayer money on a bogus impeachment process. The POTUS is being attacked for watching out for out country’s financial and security interests, while the Bidens sold their influence to the Chinese and Burisma. If we had representation in Connecticut that wanted to stop the carnage from gangs, drugs, and human traffickers, the wall would be funded, but we do not. Blaming the President is a distraction for their failure to protect defense funds that we want in Connecticut. These entrenched politicians are to blame if our defense funds are diverted.

  4. A pier for submarines when they already have been there for decades? I’d rather spend the money on submarines themselves or a wall that is either failed or not there. A pier sounds like a typical Congress waste of money exercise. Why would the left complain about this smart move by President Trump like this? Never mind, I know why. He could find a cure for cancer and the left would knock that.

    1. The problem is that the subs that are going to be built there are much larger than previous subs and the existing pier is not large enough to accommodate these larger vessels. Additional work, including an extensive dredging project and re-locating the outfall from Groton’s POTW is also planned as part of this project. So maybe if CT residents would rather have the money go to his wall, the government can have the subs made somewhere else. And maybe he can find a cure for windmill cancer. 😉

  5. So once again this administration is going to illegally redirect Congressionally-allocated monies to pay for trump’s ineffective boarder wall, which he promised Mexico would pay for. Billions of American dollars wasted on a vanity project…

    1. Ineffective? How can you say that the wall is ineffective? Walls work. Try walking through one.

    2. Instead of repeating talking points, why not state what is illegal about it instead of making an accusation? It’s also important to note that our president has diplomatically worked with Mexico so they are in fact helping by stopping illegal immigrants at the southern border of Mexico which in essence is indeed costing Mexico money for our benefits. You are entitled to your opinions, but not your own so-called facts.

      1. It is illegal to utilize funds allocated by Congress for specific projects on something other than what the funds were allocated for. Your leader repeatedly stated while campaigning that Mexico would directly pay for his wall. They have not. Your theory that Mexico is indirectly paying for the wall is incorrect.

  6. Seeing that illegal immigration cost billions per year, this seams like a good deal. Stop the problem at it source rather than robbing from the US citizens and taxpayers.

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