President Joe Biden has ordered the Pentagon to stop funding the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a proclamation released on Wednesday, Biden officially ended the declaration of emergency on the southern border that former President Donald Trump invoked in February 2019, which allowed the Pentagon to divert funding, including money originally intended for construction projects on military bases.
Further showing how much things have changed since Biden was sworn in on Wednesday, the link on the White House’s website to Trump’s emergency declaration now appears to be broken.
“It shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall,” Biden announced. “I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall.”
Since 2019, the Pentagon has defunded military construction projects; sacrificed new ships and planes; raided money that was meant to equip Afghan security forces; and used transferred money from unused Army enlistment bonuses into its counter-narcotics funds — all to pay for hundreds of miles of barriers along the southwestern border.
Last February, the Pentagon told Congress that it was also taking $1.3 billion that was supposed to pay for new equipment for the National Guard to help fund the border wall.
Now Biden has ordered the secretaries of defense and homeland security to pause work on the border wall and suspend funding for the wall’s construction pending a review into the legality of the contracts awarded for the project and how it has been paid for.
“The Department of Defense is moving expeditiously to take the actions directed by the president in the proclamation of January 20, 2021, Termination of Emergency with Respect to the Southern Border of the United States and Redirection of Funds Diverted to Border Wall Construction,” Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood said on Thursday.
Biden also directed government officials to come up with a plan within 60 days that will look into canceling or repurposing contracts that have already been awarded to private contractors, which are building the border wall.
“Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution,” Biden said. “It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security. My administration is committed to ensuring that the United States has a comprehensive and humane immigration system that operates consistently with our nation’s values.”
Biden’s decision to halt border wall funding will not affect the U.S. military’s mission along the southwestern border, said Army Lt. Col. Christian Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesman.
About 3,600 service members are currently deployed to the border, Mitchell said. Most of those troops are National Guardsmen.