News 9 has learned that President Trump's decision to redirect about three and a half billion dollars in funding for military construction projects to help pay for the border wall will impact at least one project in Oklahoma.
Construction of a new shooting range for the Oklahoma National Guard will be put on hold, as the $8 million dollars that had been earmarked to pay for it will now go to border wall construction instead. No projects at any of Oklahoma’s five major military bases are impacted by the transfer of funds.
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When the plan to redirect military funds was announced in March, Congress balked at the President’s request to pull vast amounts of money from military construction projects from their districts. In Oklahoma, $251 million among various projects was in the crosshairs for redirection. At the time Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe (R) said he was given personal, private assurance from the White House that military projects “would not be touched.”
“I can assure you it is not going to have a delay or reduction in military construction or any other military project," Inhofe told reporters at the time.
Despite his private assurance, Inhofe supports the announcement to redirect funds, saying that finishing the wall is a matter of national security.
"Temporarily redirecting military construction funds will let us make real progress on the wall without a substantial impact to the projects," Inhofe said in a statement after the announcement adding the wall is a part of the Trump Administration’s approach to immigration along the southern border which also addresses working with Mexico and the so-called safe third country agreement for migrants and what Inhofe called “asylum abuse.”
Senator James Lankford, who has supported efforts to build a wall along the border said in a joint announcement with Inhofe Oklahoma’s military installations were strong.
“The mission of the Department of Defense is to secure our nation. Providing additional funding to complete the wall at the US Southern border falls into that mission,” Lankford said.
Oklahoma national Guard Adjutant General Michael Thompson also weighed in, saying that this "will have no long-term impact to the readiness or operations of the Oklahoma National Guard."
The President’s plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border was the cornerstone of his campaign and victory in 2016. The wall has remained a core component of Mr. Trump’s rallies during the last three years but according to PolitiFact, not a single new section of the wall has been built since he took office. 60 miles of the current 654 miles of fencing and barriers along the border have been replaced since 2016.
Despite promises to force Mexico to pay for the wall, none of the repairs or replacements have been funded by the Mexican government. With the Wednesday’s announcement it appears the President plans to have US taxpayers continue to pay for the wall.
Immigration has been the defining issue for the Trump Presidency. The Administration’s policies frequently garner criticism or face challenges in court, among them sending US troops to the southern border and separating migrant families who cross the border illegally or come seeking asylum. Being able to tout some progress on the wall would likely be seen by supporters as a boost for the President’s re-election campaign.
Right now, it’s unclear who would be building the wall. In early May, a dozen companies were chosen to begin construction and create presentation segments for the Department of Homeland Security. The president has sent thousands of troops to assist with DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement efforts along the border in recent years, although it’s unclear if troops, national guard or full-time service members, could be used in the wall’s construction.
None of the companies nor troops dispatched to the border are or have been from Oklahoma.