Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said this weekend that he will make the final call on $3.6 billion in military construction money that President Trump wants to build his border wall and quickly shot down the notion of raiding any funds meant to build or repair housing for troops and their families.
The Pentagon chief — who wouldn’t even commit to giving the White House all the money it wants under the president’s national emergency declaration — is pushing back as speculation swirls that key military projects at home and abroad could be on the chopping block.
Lawmakers in both parties spoke out forcefully Sunday to try to save projects that they say are now at risk, and the acting defense secretary seemed well-aware that he has been thrust into the middle of a politically charged battle that pits border security against military spending, two central priorities of the Republican Party.
“I think I have a lot of discretion,” said Mr. Shanahan, who took over the job on Jan. 1 after a 30-year career at the defense contracting firm Boeing. “I’m not required to do anything.”
Upgrades to a U.S. military hospital in Germany; dock repairs at Pearl Harbor; the operation of a middle school at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; flight training projects at military facilities in Texas; and maintenance at other bases across the country and across all branches of the armed forces could have funding slashed or eliminated entirely. Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration Friday gives him access to a pool of roughly $21 billion in unspent military construction funds to use for the wall.