US DoD puts brakes on British military base projects for border wall

Harry Lye 5 September 2019 (Last Updated September 5th, 2019 15:17)

The US Department of Defence (DoD) has paused 44 infrastructure developments, including many destined for the European Defence Initiative, to free up funding for a border wall between the US and Mexico.

US DoD puts brakes on British military base projects for border wall
U.S. Border Patrol Agents at Border Field State Park in San Diego watch over personnel reinforcing the border fence with concertina wire. Credits: US Customs and Border Protection photo by Mani Albrecht.

The postponed projects cover 14 countries across Europe including construction set to take place on Royal Air Force bases in the UK that are used by the US Air Force (USAF). In the UK the DoD has put the brakes on eight projects, five of which would have seen the development of RAF Fairford used by the 509th Bomb Wing of the USAF. The total cost of the infrastructure projects being deferred in the UK is $179m.

The most expensive project being paused is a $119m development of a storage warehouse at Ramstein Airbase, Germany. The move will also see $18m earmarked for construction of Talon Tactical Mobile Over-the-Horizon Radar (TACMOR) in classified locations.

European countries that have seen US infrastructure projects put on hold include Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and Turkey. Worldwide the delay will see projects in Bahrain, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Korea and Japan also being paused.

In Asia, the plans will see construction of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) hangar, specialist C-130j corrosion control hangar and a school scuppered.

In total, the DoD is pausing 127 defence projects to fund the development of 175 miles of new fencing or repairs along the length of the US border with Mexico. The deferral of the projects will enable the DoD to reallocate a total of $3.6bn to the border.

The DoD is set to spend an average of $20.6m per mile of wall repaired or constructed. The total could cover the cost of around 36 advanced F-35 fighter jets or the yearly salary of 180,000 privates in the US Army. The total DoD budget for the wall falls just shy of 10% of the UK’s entire military budget for 2019.

Projects in Europe being delayed include work on schools, munitions depots, warehouses and other maintenance or reconfiguration projects. In Germany alone, the DoD has paused 11 projects with a combined value of $467.5m.

The DoD has put around $1.7bn worth of projects in the US and $1.8bn worth in Europe on hold. On 3 September, the DoD issued a memorandum listing the projects being delayed and the reasons behind the move.

The memorandum reads: “These projects will 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.

“In short, these barriers will allow DoD to provide support to DHS more efficiently and effectively. In this respect, the contemplated construction projects are force multipliers.”

The Pentagon is deferring the projects and redistributing funds after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to secure funding for the border wall. Before declaring a national emergency, the Trump administration had requested almost $6bn in funding but the funds were blocked by Congress.

Officials chose to find the funds from projects due to start in 2020 so they can assure funding with a new budget. The Pentagon is also reported to have only deferred projects that were not of critical need.

Stars and Stripes reported that the DoD had received no assurances that its budget would be backfilled to cover the moving of funds and as a result the projects pause, leaving uncertainty as to when the DoD will be able to continue them.

The DoD is already committed to around $2.5bn of funding for the US-Mexico border, this money comes through a fund designed to stop the flow of drugs.