A federal grand jury has indicted a Tennessee businessman in an alleged kickback scheme involving a pair of multimillion-dollar construction contracts at two Georgia military posts, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon. HYOSUB SHIN/HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia’s military projects spared from cuts to cover border wall

The Pentagon had previously identified upwards of $260 million in funding at five of the state’s military bases that was eligible to be diverted under President Donald Trump’s border emergency, which he declared in February. But the Defense Department ultimately opted to siphon $3.6 billion from 127 other U.S. military projects in two-dozen states, three territories and 20 countries to cover the wall, according to a list obtained by the AJC and confirmed by four aides who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record. 

The Department of Defense did not immediately confirm the list of affected projects, and most Georgia bases directed the AJC to the Pentagon. 

Earlier in the day, the White House sought to sell the diverted money as equivalent to project delays rather than cancellations. But House Democrats, hardened in their opposition to Trump’s Southwest border barrier, have vowed not to backfill funding for those military projects. 

“The President is negating the Constitution’s most fundamental principle, the separation of powers, by assaulting our Congressional ‘power of the purse,’ and is undermining the oath of office we take to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who vowed to fight the decision in court. “Canceling military construction projects at home and abroad will undermine our national security and the quality of life and morale of our troops, making America less secure.” 

The Pentagon said it exempted family housing and barracks projects from consideration, as well as projects that had already awarded funding to contractors. 

Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, told reporters that the border wall would “increase the efficiency and effectiveness” of troops currently supporting security officials at the Mexico border and that over time it “may reduce the demand for DOD personnel and capabilities in particular areas.” 

The White House has broad authority to divert military construction funding under an emergency declaration. The administration said it would use the money to pay for 175 miles  of new and repaired barriers on the Southwest border. 

Trump’s action has put Georgia’s 11 U.S. House and Senate Republicans in a particularly tough spot. All voted against a Democrat-authored resolution disapproving of the emergency declaration this spring, but many of the same lawmakers have spent their entire Washington careers boosting the state’s military bases. 

Georgia projects that were previously at risk included a $99 million cyber instructional facility at Fort Gordon, an air traffic control tower at Fort Benning and hangar at Moody Air Force Base. 

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