Madison’s Truax Field will miss out on $8 million in allotted funds to help pay for border barriers as part of President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.
Traux Field is one of 127 projects on a list of military base improvements — spanning 23 states, 19 countries and three U.S. territories — that will be stalled or killed by the move. Of the $3.6 billion in projects, only $1.1 billion in cuts would touch the continental U.S., according to a list released Wednesday by the Pentagon.
Traux Field is the only Wisconsin project on the list. The funds were set to be awarded in March 2020.
Capt. Joe Trovato, a spokesman for the Wisconsin National Guard, said in a Wednesday email that he had been notified by the National Guard Bureau that $8 million originally allotted for a small arms weapons range at the 115th Fighter Wing’s Truax Field has been diverted for border fencing purposes.
“These sorts of decisions are made at a much higher level than the Wisconsin National Guard, and we work within the budget provided to our organization,” he said. “We will remain ready to fulfill both our state mission as Wisconsin’s first military responder, and our federal mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, said in an email that the shifting of funds “is weakening our military preparedness and jeopardizing the strength of our Armed Forces.”
“It looks like Wisconsin won’t go untouched from the President’s unconstitutional decision to divert funding for his pointless border wall,” Pocan said. “The President is desperately trying to steal from Congressionally appropriated funds to live up to a failed campaign promise.”
Congress approved $1.375 billion for wall construction in this year’s budget, same as the previous year and far less than the $5.7 billion that the White House sought. Trump begrudgingly accepted the money to end a 35-day government shutdown in February but also declared a national emergency to redirect $8 billion in federal funds to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
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Trump has so far succeeded in building replacement barriers within the 654 miles of fencing built during the Obama and Bush administrations. The funding shift will allow for about 115 miles of new pedestrian fencing in areas where there isn’t any now.
“The wall is being built. It’s going up rapidly,” Trump said Wednesday. “And we think by the end of next year, which will be sometime right after the election actually, but we think we’re going to have close to 500 miles of wall, which will be complete.”
Mandi Merritt, spokesperson with the Republican National Committee, said a physical barrier on the border will deter drugs, criminals and human trafficking.
“The crisis at the southern border is about more than just immigration, which is why President Trump is taking necessary action — while Congress refuses to act — and has declared it a national emergency,” she said in an email. “President Trump will be reducing the need for U.S. military personnel to help Customs and Border Protection and helping to protect our nation even further.”
The Pentagon reviewed the list of military projects and said none that provided housing or critical infrastructure for troops would be affected. Defense officials also said they would focus on projects set to begin in 2020 and beyond, with the hope that the money could eventually be restored by Congress.
Meanwhile, Philip Shulman, a spokesman with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, noted that Trump, during a 2016 campaign stop in Wisconsin, pledged that a border wall would be paid for by Mexico.
“It is an insult to those in uniform for the Commander-in-Chief to strip their funding and resources simply for his own vanity project. Keeping our country safe by ensuring the well-being of our armed forces should always come first,” Shulman said in an email.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.