6 Arizona military projects, including 2 at Luke, could lose funding to wall
PHOENIX — The Pentagon sent a 20-page list of military construction projects, including six in Arizona, to Congress on Monday that might be slashed to pay for President Donald Trump’s wall along the Mexican border.
The Pentagon document listed hundreds of projects envisioned around the U.S. and world worth around $12.9 billion, with a total of about $150 million from Arizona military projects on the line.
Not all will be subject to cuts, the Defense Department wrote, making it difficult to determine exactly which would be vulnerable.
Five projects at four locations in the state are listed for potential cuts in fiscal year 2019: two at Luke Air Force Base and one each at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Camp Navajo and the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station.
At Luke Air Force Base, the two F-35 related projects are in danger of having $40 million cut.
However, Sen. Martha McSally said in a statement last week that Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan assured her that “no Arizona military construction projects from fiscal year 2019 will be impacted.”
She expressed concern in the past about state projects losing funding to the border wall.
“I have fought for Luke Air Force Base,” McSally told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos last month.
“I know firsthand the national treasure that it is, and I am going to fight to make sure that the resources they need for those projects for the F-35 are funded.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema told KTAR News last month that she also wanted to protect Arizona military funding.
“Right now, Luke Air Force Base is expecting $40 million just this year,” she said on Feb. 20. “Now that $40 million is at risk, and that’s really concerning because this construction has to be completed by March 2021.”
“That means that we have to get those dollars in the door now and they’ve got to start growing this in order for us to be ready for additional squadron of F-35 pilots.”
A $30 million equipment building at Fort Huachuca was the one Arizona project listed for potential cuts in fiscal year 2018.
“Fort Huachuca has a long overdue project from fiscal year 2018 that we are actively working to keep off any chopping block and will fight tooth and nail to backfill if needed,” Katie Waldman, McSally spokeswoman, said in a statement to KTAR News on Monday night.
Nationally, Democrats expressed hope that by knowing which local projects could be targeted, lawmakers would be likelier to override Trump’s veto of a measure aimed at preventing the cuts.
With the House scheduled to vote Tuesday on overriding Trump’s veto, the spokeswoman for the top GOP vote counter predicted the president will prevail anyway.
In their initial votes, the House and Senate both fell short of the two-thirds majorities that will be needed to override Trump’s veto. That suggests the override effort will fail unless the political tide shifts.
Trump declared a national emergency at the Mexican boundary last month after Congress limited him to just under $1.4 billion to build border barriers. He invoked a law that would let him siphon other budget funds – $3.6 billion from military construction – to build the structures and fulfill his prime 2016 campaign promise.
The House voted to block his emergency by 245-182 in February.
The Senate followed last week by 59-41, with McSally against the resolution and Sinema in favor of it.
Lawmakers expressed concerns that Trump was ignoring Congress’ constitutional control over spending and worries about the cuts’ impact back home. Trump vetoed the bill Friday.
In a letter accompanying the list, Defense Department officials said they wouldn’t touch items for which money would be awarded by the Sept. 30 end of this fiscal year or for projects like housing. They didn’t specify which would be exempted.
Trump said throughout his campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, which it has consistently refused to do.
Democratic-aligned groups including state attorneys general have filed lawsuits against the emergency declaration, potentially blocking the money for months or more.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.