Military

Mexico won’t pay, but military families and readiness will

Gil Cisneros and Anthony Brown, Opinion contributors
Published 12:15 a.m. MT Sept. 16, 2019

Mexico is not paying for the wall. So Trump is taking money that was supposed to support US allies, military families and projects to keep us safe.

President Donald Trump recently announced he will divert $3.6 billion in congressionally approved military construction funds to pay for part of his border wall — an ineffective vanity project that does little to strengthen our national security. In diverting this money by spuriously claiming emergency powers, Trump is circumventing Congress’ constitutional authority to decide spending and undermining the relationship between Congress and the Department of Defense.

Even more so, his reckless decision has grave consequences for the military in which we both proudly served. The United States boasts the finest and most capable fighting force in the world. Keeping it that way requires that we continue to support our service members, stand with our allies, and invest in the infrastructure and facilities that keep us safe.

Dilapidated schools and clinics 

Many of the 127 projects the president canceled would have improved the quality of life at work or home for military service members and their families. When our friends and neighbors commit to serve our country, they agree to constantly uproot their families to go where necessary to defend our borders and our freedoms, both at home and overseas. In turn, our nation makes a sacred promise to provide for them and support their families.

These include bases that military families call home. To them these installations are communities, each with their own schools, hospitals and grocery stores. Just as any of us would be outraged by crumbling classrooms, dilapidated clinics and decades-old facilities in our own neighborhoods, we should be even more incensed when the president condemns our service members and their families to such conditions.

The military construction projects that the administration is stealing from to pay for an unnecessary wall might not get the recognition or attention of a fighter jet, tank or warship, but they directly impact our military readiness and the well-being for our military families. Investment on military construction and family housing has plummeted over the decade, and there are over a $116 billion maintenance backlog of projects. The Pentagon has already testified to Congress about how this cumulative underfunding has reached a crisis point.

An example is the canceled child care development center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, home to Air Force One and the cornerstone of military security in our nation’s capital. The current child care center was constructed during World War II and now is too small to serve the number on children on base. It suffers from sewage backups, mold and rodent infestation, a leaking roof, and failing heating and AC systems.

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The Pentagon acknowledges that the facility should be “taken out of service” and that by not building a new center, service members will be forced to use more expensive, less convenient and lower quality off-base programs. Service members defending our nation should never have to worry about the safety and well-being of their children while they are serving the nation.

Punishing military for political ends 

Another example is in Southern California, where the president’s cancellation of the C-130J Flight Simulator facility for the Air National Guard Station at Channel Islands risks degrading the National Guard’s ability to combat California wildfires. The new flight simulator would have enabled service members to conduct emergency procedure training at the air station itself, reducing costs and allowing for training repetitions to better prepare for the next wildfire.

These projects are a small sample of the overall challenges facing our military infrastructure. The president is also canceling dozens of essential projects that would affect hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico, weaken our ability to combat Russian aggression in Europe, counter North Korea and protect our national security interests.

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The president’s decision to take money away from our military to pay for his border wall — a wall he promised repeatedly that Mexico would pay for — is an insult to our service members and their families who have for years been forced to do more with less. We should not be asking our armed forces to defend the nation with outdated infrastructure and facilities, and it is unconscionable for the president to divert needed investments for purely political ends. Rather than keeping us safe, his decision endangers our national security and the lives of our service members and their families.

Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., was a supply corps officer in the U.S. Navy. Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., was an aviator and JAG officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. Follow them on Twitter: @RepGilCisneros and @RepAnthonyBrown

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