Durbin Presses Guard & Reserve Chiefs On President's Diversion Of Funding To Border Wall

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, today pressed the Chiefs of the National Guard and the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Forces Reserve about the Trump Administration’s short sighted and dangerous transfer of $1.3 billion from the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account (NGREA) to be used to build part of President Donald Trump’s ineffective wall on the southwest border.  This funding diversion was part of the recent $3.8 billion that was taken from the Defense Department over congressional objections. 

Today’s Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing was on the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for the National Guard and Reserve Components.  The witnesses included General Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard; Lieutenant General Charles Luckey, Chief of the Army Reserve; Vice Admiral Luke McCollum, Chief of the Navy Reserve; Lieutenant General Richard Scobee, Chief of the Air Force Reserve; and Lieutenant General David Bellon, Commander of the Marine Forces Reserve.

“I hope that my friends on the other side of the aisle will stand up for the Guard and Reserve and for the money that we have already appropriated for our national defense, which the President wants to put in a wall account that is unspent,” Durbin said.  

Durbin then asked each witness to explain what it would mean for the Guard and Reserve if the $1.3 billion aren’t restored.  The witnesses stated that the funds would have been used to purchase equipment including: interoperable radios, so deployed reservists can communicate with their active duty counterparts; body armor for Marine Corps reservists; upgraded aircraft equipment, including systems to warn of incoming missiles; and helicopter hoists to assist the National Guard in rescuing Americans from natural disasters.

Durbin continued, “Listen to what we are sacrificing to build up the balance in an account of unspent funds for the wall.  Listen to this – does this make any sense at all?”

Video of Durbin’s remarks in Committee are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

Last week, Durbin introduced the Restoring Military Priorities Act of 2020, a bill to reverse and restore this funding transfer.  The bill also reduces DoD’s transfer authority so that DoD cannot turn around and try to divert additional funding for President Trump’s border wall.  Currently, there is no other process at hand to reverse such a reprogramming.

In Spring of 2019, the Defense Department transferred $2.5 billion in funding to be used to build part of President Trump’s border wall, and the President later raided $3.6 billion more in military construction funds for his wall as well.

In January, it was reported that President Trump intends to raid $7.2 billion in DoD funds this year to pay for his wall, diverting funding from military families and forcing American taxpayers to pay for his vanity project and failed campaign promise.