Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved the transfer of $1.5 billion to build more than 80 miles (130 km)of barriers on the border with Mexico, U.S. officials said on Friday, including taking about $600 million from an account meant for Afghan security forces, as reported by Reuters.
“The funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes and revised requirements, and therefore will have minimal impact on force readiness,” Shanahan said in a statement.
Shanahan said that the U.S. military had more than 4,000 service members on the border, along with 19 aircraft.
The latest move was opposed by congressional Democrats, who also criticized a March transfer of $1 billion in military money to fund Republican President Donald Trump’s wall.
All 10 Democrats on Senate appropriations subcommittees that handle defence, veterans affairs and related spending, wrote to Shanahan to oppose the decision. “We are dismayed that the Department has chosen to prioritise a political campaign promise over the disaster relief needs of our service members,” they said.
A U.S. official said the latest transfer would include $604 million from funds for the Afghan security forces, which are struggling to hold territory against Taliban militants.
The United States had appropriated $4.9 billion in support for those forces this year. The official said the money was taken from that account because they found savings in contracts.
“It took less money to meet the policy commitment than we thought,” another U.S. official said, adding this was not the first time money had been reprogrammed from the account.