$160M allocated for West Point instead will go to border wall
By CHRIS MCKENNA | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: September 5, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — Democratic lawmakers blasted the Trump administration on Wednesday for stripping West Point of $160 million allocated for a new engineering center and parking garage at the United States Military Academy as part of a $3.6 billion diversion of military funding to extend the Mexican border wall.
U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, whose district includes West Point, all condemned the decision in statements after learning which projects were affected and demanded the administration reverse it. They argued the funds were dedicated by Congress to specific construction plans that had been studied and shouldn't be diverted to a mission they viewed as wasteful.
"I thought Mexico was paying for the wall — not our future military leaders," said Maloney, taking a jab at President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign boast about how he would fund the wall construction. "The important projects he's putting at risk are far more important than his misguided vanity project."
Gillibrand, in a joint statement with Schumer, called extending the Southern border wall "a waste of taxpayer money that will do nothing to advance our national security interests," and would rob funding from projects that "have undergone a thorough review process by the military and by Congress and were determined necessary for military operations."
The New York lawmakers had known that West Point's funds were at risk and started sounding alarm bells in February, after Trump declared a national emergency that would enable him to shift Department of Defense funding. The department released a list of allocations that could get cut because no contracts had been awarded and they didn't involve military housing, barracks or dormitories.
Four West Point projects were on that original list, including the engineering center and parking garage, both of which were said to be budgeted for June 2020. Gillibrand and Schumer had said in a project description in March that the $95 million engineering center would provide West Point cadets and professors with classrooms, laboratories and project areas for science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, including a cyber-security program.
The $65 million, multistory parking garage would have 450 spaces and was needed to fill a parking shortage in the main academic area, the two senators said then. Much of the existing parking on campus violates "anti-terrorism force protection standards" and must be moved, they said.
Lawmakers were told Wednesday which 127 projects in the U.S. and abroad from the original target list had been defunded. The two that were spared at West Point are a $22 million cemetery and a $70 million sewage treatment plant.
Maloney argued in a letter to Trump released Wednesday that diverting military funds would violate the will of the legislative branch and raise constitutional concerns, while undercutting the projects for which they were intended.
"Stealing funds from the next generation of military leaders to fund an expensive and inefficient border wall would be a misuse of federal funds," he wrote. "It would also demonstrate a lack of commitment to West Point and its outstanding cadets, faculty, and staff."