The Specific Deferrals of DoD Projects

In case you missed it, as I did, here is a list of specific Department of Defense projects deferred at the start of September in order to build $3.6 billion of additional primary and secondary “pedestrian fencing” on our border with Mexico.

On September 3, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wrote a memo that said in part:


“On February 15, 2019, in accordance with the National Emergencies Act, the President declared that a national emergency exists at the southern border requiring the use of the armed forces. This declaration made available, among other statutes, 10 U.S.C. § 2808, which authorizes the Secretary of Defense, without regard to any other provision of law, to undertake military construction projects not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support the use of the armed forces in connection with the national emergency.”


The memo said that based on advice from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and input from the heads of the Army Corps of Engineers, Homeland Security, and Interior, there would be 11 “military construction projects” to “deter illegal entry, increase the vanishing time of those illegally crossing the border, and channel migrants to ports of entry. They will reduce the demand for DoD personnel and assets at the locations where the barriers are constructed and allow the redeployment of DoD personnel and assets to other high-traffic areas on the border without barriers.”

These 11 projects will be paid for by deferrals of DoD work elsewhere around the world, including $1.8B in overseas projects, in places like Bahrain Island (Fleet Maintenance Facility, $26.3M); Ramstein AB, Germany (European Deterrence Initiative warehouses, to help keep US and NATO assets where needed, $119M); and Yokota AB, Japan (hangars and warehouses for the HQ of US Forces Japan, $119M).

US Territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands would lose $687M for their projects (weapons ranges, readiness centers, and maintenance shops).

DoD facilities in US States would lose $1B, including Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia (cyber ops facility, $10M); Tyndall AFB, Florida (fire/crash rescue station, $17M); Bangor, Washington (pier and maintenance facility, $89M); and Fort Campbell, Kentucky (a middle school for the children of soldiers, $62.5M).

When Esper’s memo was issued, Patrick Leahy, Richard Durbin, and Brian Schatz of the Senate Committee on Appropriations demanded that the Government Accountability Office rule on the legality of the President’s order. Two days later, Thomas Armstrong, General Counsel for the GAO, wrote:


“The Department of Defense (DOD) transferred and obligated its fiscal year 2019 appropriations in order to construct fences at the southern border of the United States in response to a request from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that DOD provide support for DHS’s counter-drug activities pursuant to DOD’s authority under 10 U.S.C. § 284. DOD’s transfer of amounts into its Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities, Defense, account for border fence construction was consistent with DOD’s statutorily enacted transfer authority, and use of these amounts for the purpose of border fence construction was permissible under various statutory provisions. We also conclude that DHS waivers of legal requirements did not violate a prohibition on use of DOD’s appropriations. Our opinion applies the legal provisions to the facts before us and does not address or draw conclusions regarding border fencing as a policy matter.”


The US military budget is $693 billion. The requested 2020 US budget is $4.746 trillion.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.