Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. It's about to lose $400M more to Trump's border wall.

The Pentagon is taking money from 127 projects in 23 states and three territories to build Trump's long-promised wall along the southern border.
Image: President Trump participates in tour of U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes near Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California
President Donald Trump speaks while participating in a tour of U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California on March 13, 2018.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

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By Dareh Gregorian, Mosheh Gains and Alex Moe

President Donald Trump is building his wall, and Puerto Rico is going to pay for it.

The Department of Defense released a list of 127 military construction projects that are being delayed as the agency moves $3.6 billion to pay for construction of fencing along the southern border, and the U.S. territory is one of the hardest hit by the move.

The department said it was holding off on over $400 million in funding for ten construction projects on the island, including a power substation and a National Guard readiness center. A senior Defense official downplayed the potential impact of the move and noted that most of the projects on the island — which is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017 — weren't slated to begin work until Sept. 2020 at the earliest.

"We don't see ourselves delaying those projects. We're fully committed to that recovery," the official said.

The U.S. territory of Guam — which was threatened with a missile strike by North Korea in 2017 — is set to lose $250 million in construction projects, the agency said.

The diversions also hit 23 states, with New York and New Mexico— both represented by Democrats— taking the brunt of the blow.

New York is losing funding for $160 million of construction projects at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — $95 million for an engineering center and $65 million for a parking structure. New Mexico is losing funding for an $85 million operations facility at Holloman Air Force Base and $40 million for an information systems facility at White Sands Missile Facility.

“I visited the current RPA training facility at Holloman earlier this year. The building is falling apart, with some equipment being held together with duct tape. To say this facility, which supports training for 100 percent of the Air Force’s MQ-9 crews, urgently needs to be replaced would be an understatement," Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in a statement.

He added that the testing and evaluation facility at White Sands "was built in 1962 and recently caught on fire. Stealing funding from these essential military construction projects to pay for the president’s political pet project is an unconscionable attack on military readiness and the health and safety of our men and women in uniform.”

President Donald Trump's border wall prototypes across from Tijuana, Mexico, on Jan. 7, 2019.Guillermo Arias / AFP - Getty Images file

The diversion hit red states as well. Utah is losing $54 million in funding for two projects at Hill Air Force Base.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he was "disappointed" by the move.

"Funding the border wall is an important priority, and the Executive Branch should use the appropriate channels in Congress, rather than divert already appropriated funding away from military construction projects and therefore undermining military readiness," Romney said in a statement.

The Marine Corps base in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, which is still recovering from last year's Hurricane Florence, is losing over $40 million in funding for two projects that were slated for early 2020.

The Pentagon announced Tuesday it would be temporarily halting funding for the 127 projects to use the money for border fencing, and taking $1.8 billion from projects slated for inside the United States and another $1.8 billion from military facilities around the globe. The move was authorized by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Defense officials said they were hopeful that Congress would "backfill" the money that's being taken from the projects. A senior defense official acknowledged there were "no guarantees" the projects would be funded in the future.

Officials released a list of the affected projects on Wednesday. Internationally, U.S. installations in Germany are losing the most funding — over $550 million. That includes money slated for squadron operations, hardening air hangars and building an elementary school.

Bases in Japan are losing about $450 million, including funding for two operations facilities. Bases in South Korea are seeing a $17.5 million command and control facility and a $53 million "unmanned aerial vehicle hangar" have their funding diverted.

Also affected is $18 million in utilities and infrastructure support at an unspecified "classified location."

The senior Defense official said that the Pentagon had reached out to European allies to see if they could contribute to the costs of the delayed projects overseas. "I can tell you that we have you know routine conversations with our allies and partners about burden sharing in general and we reached out to all of them today to talk specifically about the list," the official said.

The Defense Department also released new details about how the $3.6 billion would be spent — building 175 miles of border fencing at 11 locations in California, Texas and Arizona. The Pentagon estimates that each mile will cost about $20 million.

The Pentagon said that of the 11 projects, six are on federal land totaling 94.5 miles, and five are on non-federal property totaling about another 81 miles.

The most expensive part of the construction will be in Laredo, Texas. The D.O.D. plans on building "approximately 52 miles of a new primary pedestrian fence system " along the Rio Grande for over $1.2 billion.

The next most expensive project is $630 million to replace "31 miles of vehicle barriers with new pedestrian fencing" near the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Yuma, Arizona, along with another $527 million for 31 miles of new pedestrian fencing. The range is used for air to ground bombing practice by the Air Force, while another portion of the range is operated by the Marines.

Construction is expected to begin by the end of the year.

Trump declared a national emergency at the border in February in a bid to circumvent Congress and take money from other areas for wall construction. The border wall was one of Trump's earliest campaign promises during the 2016 election. He repeatedly vowed that Mexico would pay for its construction during the campaign.

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, praised the president for taking action, saying, "We continue to face a very real crisis at the southern border."

He also called for Congress to add more money to pay for the military construction funding the president diverted.

"I regret that the President has been forced to divert funding for our troops to address the crisis," Thornberry said. "It is important that Congress now restore the military construction funding diverted for border security. Failing to do so only forces our troops to pay for political discord in Washington."

Haley Talbot and Frank Thorp V contributed.