This editorial was published by the News Tribune of Tacoma.
When President Donald Trump couldn’t convince Mexico or the U.S. Congress to pay for a border wall, he took matters into his own shifty hands by using a statute meant only for emergencies — hence the name, the National Emergencies Act.
The law allows a president to tap into military funding without a sign-off from Congress. Trump calls it an effective diversion of funds. We’re calling it the Great Raid, and it hits close to home for national defense interests here in the Puget Sound region.
At the president’s request, Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorized the reallocation of $3.6 billion, previously set aside for 127 military construction projects around the globe, to build part of Trump’s border fence.
Democrats have characterized the maneuver as a power grab for political gain, and they aren’t wrong. Siphoning money from our nation’s military-readiness infrastructure to fulfill a campaign promise is inappropriate. No president should use the Pentagon like a personal ATM.
In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, along with Rep. Derek Kilmer, all Washington state Democrats, called the projects “imperative to our national security,” adding that “our men and women in uniform deserve better.”
Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, home to the Navy’s most elite submarines, is the site of the one Washington state project that Congress funded and Trump defunded
The $88.9 million pier extension at Bangor is needed to secure Coast Guard vessels that escort the Navy’s eight Trident ballistic missile submarines as they move between the base and surface dive points in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Bangor has the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S. But according to the Navy Times, the support vessels have inadequate berthing space while the maintenance program “has less than half the space it requires, and it’s spread across multiple facilities.”
Kilmer, aware that the naval base is the top employer in his district, told us the “mission critical” project was put in deferred status, but in reality, “the Defense Department has no guarantee these projects will be backfilled.”
Congress will have to start the appropriations process from scratch. And the Kitsap base won’t be the only loser; other West Coast projects on the list include an Air National Guard installation in Klamath Falls, Ore., a flight simulator in California and a drone facility in New Mexico.
Puerto Rico is set to lose more than $400 million in investments. And Guam, the Pacific island that North Korea threatened to strike in 2017, lost a quarter of a billion dollars in construction work.
All this and more has been put on hold for 175 miles of fence that will do little to stop illegal immigration. Of more value to Trump are the bragging rights he can use at his rallies and in his reelection campaign.
As retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling tweeted: ‘Support the troops?’ Not so much.”
Trump will be the first U.S. president to use the National Emergencies Act solely to circumvent the congressional budget. He declared an emergency in February but acknowledged at a press conference, “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
A dizzying number of lawsuits filed against the Trump administration carry a similar theme: The emergency declaration violates the federal government’s separation of powers. On this, the Supreme Court may very well have the last word.
Kilmer hinted at legislation to counter Trump’s reallocation of funds. But the Gig Harbor Democrat just returned to D.C. this week and after a long August recess, lawmakers have a lot to do.
Meanwhile, the American people can let the truth sink in: When their president repeatedly said his wall would be funded by Mexico, what he really meant was that U.S. service members and their families would pay the price.
On second thought, maybe the Great Raid isn’t the best name for it. How about the Big Bait and Switch?