Durbin Meets with Acting Defense Secretary On President Trump's Demand For A Southern Border Wall

WASHINGTON – In light of President Donald Trump’s government shutdown and the potential for him to declare a national emergency in order to fund his southern border wall, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, today met with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to warn him on how serious such a move would be, how legally dubious it would be, and to caution him that such an event will impact the Department of Defense’s (DoD) overall relationship with Congress.  Should the President declare a national emergency, he could try to direct DoD to build the wall using billions of dollars in unspent military construction funding.  These funds would likely come from cutting or eliminating real military construction projects that the Pentagon had requested.

“Using DoD funds to pay for the wall, when Congress was never asked to approve of such a plan, is a major breach of relations between DoD and the oversight committees,” said Durbin.  “In my meeting with Acting Secretary Shanahan, I cautioned him that if President Trump directs DoD to circumvent Congress in such a legally dubious way on such a major issue, Congress will have to reevaluate its relationship with the Department and judge whether each instance of broad flexibility granted to the Department is worth the risk of abuse by President Trump.” 

A photo of today’s meeting is available here.

In today’s meeting, Durbin also pressed Acting Secretary Shanahan on the future of U.S. troops in Syria.  On December 19, President Trump announced that he intends to withdraw approximately 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.  While this came as a surprise to the Pentagon, it has begun planning for a withdrawal in the next 120 days.

Shanahan was the Deputy Secretary for Defense before becoming Acting Secretary.  He comes from the private sector, spending more than 30 years at Boeing, and was most recently the senior vice president for Supply Chain & Operations.  Shanahan spent many years managing the Boeing’s Commercial Airplane Programs.  He is a native of Washington State and has Masters Degrees in mechanical engineering and business administration from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).