Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz Statement at Hearing on President’s National Emergency Declaration and its Effect on Military Construction and Readiness

2019-02-27 14:00

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chair of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on "The President's 2019 National Emergency Declaration Circumventing Congress to Build a Border Wall & its Effect on Military Construction and Readiness":

We are here today because the President has decided that his political agenda is more important than our military readiness. The President has decided to take 3.6 billion dollars from military construction projects that the military asked for, said they needed and that support the military and their families, to build his wall without Congressional approval, projects which he says “didn’t sound too important to me.”

What we are witnessing is a President who poses a direct threat to both our military families and America’s national security.

First, there is no border emergency. That is a fabrication. The administration’s own statistics show that crossings and apprehensions are at historic lows. Furthermore, 90 percent of all drugs entering the country come through legal ports of entry. Contrary to statements made by the President, drug traffickers are not walking loads of narcotics through the desert and into the US on foot. This declaration undermines U.S. national security and the needs of our men and women in uniform, as well as his credibility. The fact is the President shut down the government over funding for this wall. Then Congress reopened the government, and then negotiated the border wall issue, which was rejected by a bipartisan, bicameral Committee who chose not to include the 5.7 billion dollars for this boondoggle.

So in response to losing, the President has chosen to use an emergency construction authority, which has been used only 18 times since September 2001. And in those cases, only under rare and highly scrutinized circumstances has this authority been used for projects in the U.S. — notably, for security measures in December 2001 at military installations storing sensitive materials or weapons. The remaining uses of the authority have been for facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Djibouti, and a handful of other locations in the U.S. Central Command’s area of operations – because we were at war. Using Section 2808 of title 10 of the U.S. Code like this, simply put, is stealing, stealing funds – requested by DOD and approved by Congress – and taken away from military needs, all to build his wall. The President’s emergency declaration is exclusively so he can bypass Congress – and not to address a bona fide emergency.

The Administration is attempting to misuse the flexibility provided by Congress to fund construction projects that directly support the use of our armed forces in an emergency or a declared war. The President’s plan is not to make us safer; it is in fact, an attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to build an unnecessary wall that he said Mexico would pay for.

And there will be real consequences for military readiness if we continue down this road. Just last year, DOD senior leaders testified before Congress about a backlog of 116 billion dollars of unfunded facility requirements, and that 32 percent of their facilities were in poor or failing condition. 

Let me repeat that, 32 percent of DOD facilities are in poor or failing condition according to DOD.

Diverting appropriated funds that were provided to specific construction projects will affect military training, readiness, and quality of life for troops and their families.

It proves that petty politics are being put ahead of the readiness and wellbeing of our troops and their families. This is just the latest political gimmick to use the military, and this time in support of the President’s misguided approach to our immigration policies. Invoking emergency military construction authority comes after he has previously unnecessarily deployed active-duty troops and equipment to the southern border. So what’s next? Because remember, this is only a portion of an estimated $30 billion that the President ultimately wants to spend on the wall. Does the Administration plan to steal military construction funding every year going forward?

It is clear that there is no national emergency—only a manufactured crisis—and there has been no attempt to explain how the wall has anything to do with supporting U.S. military needs, as the law intends.  From the beginning, President Trump’s obsession over a border wall has been based on misguided anti-immigrant fervor, not U.S. national security. I oppose this dangerous gimmick, a majority of this House opposes this gimmick, and the American people are utterly opposed to this gimmick. Putting our military families and our troops in this situation is shameful and President Trump should be ashamed of himself for attempting a “win at all costs” approach to getting his way.

116th Congress