Wednesday, April 29, 2020

How is the DIB affected by Trump's Border wall?

It may come as a shock or a disappointment to President Trump's supporters, but it has become abundantly clear that funding for the border wall along the US Mexico border is not going to come from Mexico. Instead, the Trump administration has channeled its efforts towards securing funds through a series of aberrant maneuvers, many of which have raised constitutional concerns. In particular, declaring a national emergency to circumvent congressional approval of spending seems to have been a very shortsighted decision considering the current Covid-19 crisis.

Perhaps more immediately consequential than the precedent set for the limits of executive power is the impact the diversion of funds has on the defense industrial base (DIB). In February, the Trump administration released a plan for the diversion of $3.8 billion in funding for the wall which had originally been designated for the production of military equipment in the United States such as the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the F-35 fighter jet, ships and other equipment for the National Guard. The production of this equipment has significant economic impact on the districts in which they are produced. With over 1.900 suppliers across 45 states the F-35 alone contributes to over 254,000 jobs. With an economic depression looming, these jobs will be important to the country's recovery. This reallocation of funding reflects a lack of consideration for its economic consequences.

More recently, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has announced the restoration of half a billion dollars originally put on hold for the wall. The funding was restored for 22 construction projects in the United States including a $62.6 million dollar middle school at Fort Campbell, KY. To replace the funds, the Pentagon has taken money from Overseas Contingency Operations (which causes its own problems). It seems plausible that now, more aware of the economic impact of coronavirus the restoration of the funding was done to contribute to financial recovery in the future. Regardless, the restoration further indicates insufficient analysis of the impact of the original diversion of funds (as well as the political clout of Mitch McConnell).

In total, the Trump Administration has moved over $10 billion dollars of the defense budget to fund the border wall. If these examples are at all indicative of the consideration given to where they draw the funds the United States may end up like Trump's Atlantic City Casino. While the building of the border wall may also create jobs, they are not as dispersed throughout the country as the jobs created by the DIB and they do not contribute to national security against peer threats.

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