Trump announces national emergency to get border wall funding
Several Northern California and Central Valley military bases could have construction funding pulled to build President Donald Trump’s border wall, according to a list of projects the Pentagon released Monday night.
Among them: $107 million for a new hanger at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield and $10.7 million for improvements for the California Air National Guard installation at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
Those projects were not included on the list of potential funding targets circulated by House Democrats last month.
All told, the official list from the Department of Defense includes $1.1 billion for military construction projects in California that have been authorized by Congress but not yet committed to contracts. That’s out of almost $13 billion worth of projects worldwide that the Pentagon could redirect to the border.
California is home to military bases with significant units from each branch of the Armed Forces, including the Navy’s Pacific Fleet in San Diego, the Marine command at Camp Pendleton, the Air Force’s fleet of cargo jets at Travis and the Army’s sprawling Mojave Desert training grounds.
In a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s national emergency declaration, the state of California claimed it would “suffer economic harm from diversion of funding from military construction projects on California bases.”
“More defense contractor funding is spent in California than in any other state, and such funding generates significant state and local tax revenues, employment, and economic activity,” it argued.
Other California-based military projects that could have funding pulled include $167 million to upgrade Navy SEAL training facilities in Coronado and $30 million for upgrades at other Special Operations Command facilities at the Camp Pendleton.
The Army could also at least temporarily lose a $29 million range at its National Training Center near Barstow, where it sends brigades for large-scale war games before deployments.
The national emergency that President Donald Trump declared on Feb. 15 gives him the power to redirect federal funds that have been budgeted — but not yet contracted out — for military construction projects.
The White House plans to tap $3.6 billion in these so-called “unobligated” military construction funds, roughly a third of the project funding on the Pentagon’s list, as part of $8 billion in federal money they intend to redirect for wall construction.
The Pentagon has yet to disclose which particular projects it plans to divert money from, despite pressure from congressional Democrats.
A senior administration official told reporters in February that officials “would be looking at lower priority military construction projects. We would be looking at ones that are to fix or repair a particular facility that might be able to wait a couple of months into next year.”
That may shield Travis Air Force Base, which held a ceremonial groundbreaking in December for the hangar — the centerpiece in a new set of facilities to house KC-46A Pegasus, the Air Force’s next generation refueling tanker.
The project also has a vigorous defender in local Rep. John Garamendi, who holds an influential committee post overseeing military bases.
“As Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee within the House Armed Services Committee, I oversee MILCON projects and intend to scrutinize this action in the weeks ahead,” Garamendi, a Democrat, said in a statement.
The Fresno airport houses the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard, which is looking to expand its operations and upgrade facilities. It is set to receive $10.7 million in funding to replace fuel storage and distribution facilities at the installation.
Democratic Rep. Jim Costa represents parts of Fresno, including the airport, and worries that the 144th Fighter Wing could be “on the losing side” of the president’s push to build the wall. “It is Congress’ responsibility to determine where money is appropriated and for what purpose, and it is a violation of the Constitution for the President to unilaterally divert funds from those projects,” Costa said in a statement.
Naval Air Station Lemoore in Kings County has a hefty project on the list, too. A proposal to build a $113 million hangar for new F-35 jets could be tabled.
In Northern California, the Defense Distribution Depot in Tracy and the Army’s Military Ocean Terminal in Concord could both lose roughly $20 million for upgrades.
Administration officials say they plan to ask Congress to replace the funds in upcoming spending bills, and repurposing funds will just delay construction. Local officials, however, worry that the budgeting process is slow and unpredictable, with no guarantees the same funding will be included in future spending bills.
This story was updated to include a comment from Rep. Costa.