DAYTON, Ohio — Projects at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and throughout Ohio escaped the Trump administration’s plans to divert more than $3.6 billion from military construction to fund the president’s proposed border wall.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday approved the use of billions in funding from the military to build 175 miles of President Donald Trump’s wall along the Mexican border. A spokeswoman for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said military construction in the Buckeye State would not be impacted.
Pentagon officials said half the money will come from military projects in the U.S., and the rest will come from projects in other countries. In total, more than $1.07 billion will come from deferred projects in 23 states while another $1.83 billion will come from projects delayed in around 20 or so countries, according to a list provided to the Dayton Daily News.
The Pentagon spent Wednesday contacting members of Congress to let them know if a project in their state would be impacted.
The National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patt is in the midst of a $182-million expansion project and there are plans for a new $6.8 million fire and crash rescue station on the base. Each project avoided the cuts.
“We of course advocated strongly that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, specifically the NASIC project, not be impacted,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner-R, Dayton, said. “It is a project that is on track and the funds have been obligated. That should give it some preference.”
A list of potential cuts, released in March by Senate Democrats, showed that $112 million of military construction projects in Ohio were originally under consideration by the Department of Defense. The Ohio projects included the first installment of the long–coveted expansion at NASIC and the base’s new fire and crash rescue station.
Smaller construction projects at Camp Ravenna, Mansfield, Toledo and Youngstown that were included in the March list also avoided the delays announced Wednesday.
Despite that, presidential candidate Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Youngstown, blasted the president for moving funds. Ryan called the diversion of military money “outrageous” and said it amounted to “stealing” from the armed forces. Sen Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also criticized the Trump administration for the move.
“The President’s decision to go around Congress and take funding away from our military to support his vanity project is reckless and irresponsible,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Last year, Congress made key investments in our nation’s defense and national security through military installations around the state. I will strongly fight back against any attempt by the President to rob Ohio’s service members and key defense priorities across our state of this funding so that he can score political points.”
Among the Ohio projects that were originally considered in March but escaped Wednesday’s list were:
• $61 million, the first of three installments for a new building to host the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The intelligence center is currently housed at a World War II-era building on the base.
• $6.8 million for a new fire/crash rescue station at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
• $8.8 million to relocate the main gate at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station
• $7.4 million for a new machine gun range at Camp Ravenna
• $13 million for a replacement fire station at Mansfield Lahm Airport
• $15 million for alert hangar at Toledo Express Airport.
The funds were part of the money Trump sought as part of a national emergency declaration that allows him to redirect federal dollars already approved by Congress.
Turner earlier this year fought the use of military construction dollars for the wall but nonetheless did not vote to overturn the national emergency, calling the vote a “political ploy” meant to help House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Both Brown and Portman voted in March to terminate Trump’s emergency declaration that allowed for the president to reallocate money already designated by Congress for certain projects.
“I am a strong supporter and advocate for Ohio’s military facilities and research institutions and will continue to work to ensure that key military construction projects at these strategic facilities move forward,” Portman said in a prepared statement. “I have and will continue to urge the administration to use money other than military construction funds to fully protect these projects in Ohio and around the country.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 On Your Side.