By Carla Babb
The Pentagon has received a request from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to divert funds to help build roughly 270 miles of fencing on the southern U.S. border with Mexico, according to a senior U.S. Defense Department official.
The Defense Department “is now beginning an assessment of that request for assistance,” which was sent Wednesday, the official said.
The request calls for building fences, roads and lighting across multiple states in six “highly trafficked” sectors along the southwest border, including some urban areas.
The official did not know how much the request from DHS would potentially cost the Pentagon because the request was for “border miles” and not for a specific funding amount.
DHS has asked for the assistance under the Pentagon’s Title 10 U.S. Code 284, which authorizes the military to defend the U.S. from drug trafficking.
“It has to be in drug-smuggling corridors. DHS, as you know, has designated the southwest border a drug-smuggling corridor,” the official told a small group of reporters.
A spending deal by Congress that was signed into law in December granted the administration about $1.4 billion for border wall construction. Administration officials, however, had asked for $5 billion.
According to the defense official, the Pentagon will take about two weeks to provide a recommendation to the secretary of defense, who would be responsible for approving any requests.
That recommendation will include a determination from the Army Corps of Engineers on whether the requested projects are feasible, an assessment from the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the impacts that could be made on military preparedness, and an identification from the comptroller of potential funding sources.
Last year, the Trump administration took $2.5 billion from military counter-drug programs for border barrier construction and about $3.6 billion from military construction funding. Congress did not replace the money taken from those accounts in the current budget.