The Biden administration announced Friday that it returned more than $2 billion in military funds that former President Donald Trump had diverted to the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border barrier, while the Department of Defense (DOD) simultaneously announced that those funds will be used for overseas military construction projects.
Instead of border wall construction, the DOD said Friday that the $2.2 billion will be used for 66 projects across 16 countries, three U.S. territories, and 11 states.
A memo (pdf) released by the Pentagon reveals that the majority of the funds, or around $1.26 billion, will be spent overseas in places including Hungary, Japan, Italy, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Germany, Romania, Spain, and other countries.
According to the memo, in one instance, about 59 million will be spent on a regional munitions storage facility in Slovakia. In Jordan, $18 million will be spent by the Pentagon on an air traffic control tower and about $34 million will be doled out for a munitions storage area.
Nearly $10 million will be spent at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the replacement of a “working dog treatment facility,” it showed. The Navy will spend about $53 million, meanwhile, on an “electrical system upgrade” in Bahrain.
About $608 million will be spent on military projects in the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Within the United States, about $300 million will be spent on military projects in Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, and several other states.
DOD press secretary John Kirby told reporters that the department approved a $150 million military package for Ukraine, including systems to counter artillery radar and drones.
“The effort diverted critical resources away from military training facilities and schools, and caused serious risks to life, safety, and the environment,” the White House said in a statement Friday about the release of funds back to the DOD. “It also took attention away from genuine security challenges, like drug smuggling and human trafficking.”
In late April, the DOD announced that it canceled all border barrier construction projects that were initially appropriated for other military projects. During President Joe Biden’s first day in office on Jan. 20, he issued an order that terminated the construction of the border wall.
An additional $1.4 billion in border wall funds were appropriated by Congress for the fiscal year 2021 as part of a December 2020 COVID-19 relief measure. The Biden administration on Friday called on Congress to rescind the funds to construct the wall.
Republicans are almost certain to pounce on Friday’s announcement. Following Biden’s January executive order and a surge in illegal immigration, GOP lawmakers and governors have called on the administration to re-start construction of the wall. The Biden administration, however, described the wall construction as a “waste of money” that doesn’t curb illegal immigration.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said Thursday that he will direct Texas to construct a wall along the state’s border with Mexico, arguing that it’s needed to stop the surge of people illegally crossing the border into the United States.
“It will help all of us to work on ways to stem the flow of unlawful immigration and to stem the flow of illegal contraband,” Abbott said during an event.
In April, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over his order rescinding the wall’s construction, alleging the move violates the National Environmental Protection Act.
The border wall was one of Trump’s key campaign promises when he was a candidate in 2016. During his administration, more than 450 miles of the barrier were constructed, according to Customs and Border Protection.