No one outside of Donald Trump’s base particularly wanted the president’s expensive and ill-conceived border wall. It was, from the start, a promise made out of craven political opportunism, a bid to score points with rabid, red-meat, anti-immigrant neo-cons.
The question is: In 2019, with the news that it will cost North Carolina military bases about $80 million in new construction, does the wall still sell with Trump’s base, a population not likely to stomach military funding cuts? Indeed, what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable wall?
The News & Observer explained Wednesday how the diverted funds could impact some high-profile plans for North Carolina bases:
The affected projects in North Carolina include $40 million for a new battalion complex and ambulatory care center at Camp Lejeune, a previously canceled $32.9 million elementary school at Fort Bragg, and a $6.4 million storage facility for the new KC-46 tanker at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
Those projects join cuts at a Florida base nearly destroyed by last year’s hurricane season, a new middle school for Kentucky’s Fort Campbell and a new fire station for a Marine Corps base in South Carolina.
In all, 34 installations in the United States and eight bases in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, will absorb $1.8 billion in domestic cuts to planned construction projects. Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, is losing more than $400 million in planned military construction projects.
That money will be shifted to help support 11 military construction projects to extend the border wall at locations in Texas, Arizona and California. Another $1.8 billion will be pulled from planned construction projects at bases overseas to also support the border wall construction.
The Pentagon said in a briefing Tuesday that it was justified in shifting the $3.6 billion total in military construction funds to pay for border wall construction because it had determined that the wall was necessary to support military operations along the border.
A senior defense official briefing reporters Wednesday said the only factors that were considered on whether to cut a project was whether it had an award date after fiscal year 2020, and that no barracks or family housing would be cut.
That meant that bases hit hardest by last year’s hurricane season, including Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida were not spared. Tyndall will lose $17 million for a fire station.
But those are often projects that local leaders have spent years lobbying for in order to secure funding in the annual defense bill, and getting that funding is often seen as an important victory for elected leaders.
Asked how the Pentagon has explained to those local communities and leaders how the wall was a more important priority, the official didn’t answer directly but said that the hurricane-hit bases were already being repaired through supplemental hurricane funding. “We are committed to the rebuild of Tyndall,” the official said.
To get the projects back on track, however, the Pentagon will need Congress to backfill the funds, and Congress has not indicated it is willing to do that. “Conversations are ongoing with Congress,” the official said.
Only with Donald Trump do we hope campaign platitudes are just platitudes.
The Observer‘s editorial board followed through on Thursday, slamming U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis for the news, and not only for his most extraordinary flip-floppery on Trump’s border wall earlier this year.
But also for his handling of the president’s apparently politically-motivated Tweet this week, which seemed to indicate erroneously that it was Tillis, and not Gov. Roy Cooper, who asked the president for an emergency declaration in advance of Hurricane Dorian’s arrival in the Carolinas.
At the request of Senator Thom Tillis, I am getting the North Carolina Emergency Declaration completed and signed tonight. Hope you won’t need it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2019
This story has about a 24-hour shelf life, which is to say it’s a grotesquely unimportant tidbit during Dorian, but it does capture — in one neat little shell — how strange Washington, D.C. is these days.
Stay safe during the storm.