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Biden administration to return Trump’s border wall money to Pentagon accounts

Administration will also seek to address erosion, flooding risk

A stretch of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border on the Johnson Ranch near Columbus, N.M.
A stretch of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border on the Johnson Ranch near Columbus, N.M. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Pentagon has begun the process of canceling contracts for border wall construction that used funds diverted from other Defense Department accounts by the Trump administration.

A Biden administration official said in a statement that to the extent possible, what remains of the more than $14 billion tied up in border wall projects would be restored for use as Congress intended.

“To build a wall along the southern border, the previous Administration redirected billions of dollars Congress provided for supporting American troops and their families, and for purchasing military vehicles, aircraft, and ships,” the official said in a statement. “The Biden Administration is committed to upholding the rule of law, and properly equipping American troops and caring for their families.”

The Pentagon said that deferred military construction projects could be resumed using the funds transferred back from the border wall project. Deputy spokesman Jamal Brown said in a statement that the department “has begun taking all necessary actions to cancel border barrier projects and to coordinate with interagency partners.”

In coordinated action, the Biden administration announced plans for work to remedy what the administration official described as the “haphazard” approach to the original construction efforts by the Trump administration. That will include efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to remedy defects in the prior, partial wall construction.

The Biden team contends that the previous administration “blew large holes into the Rio Grande Valley’s flood barrier system,” exposing Texas’ Hidalgo County to significant flooding risk. DHS has also identified the risk of erosion in San Diego along a stretch extending 14 miles.

President Joe Biden’s broader decision to freeze the construction of the border wall has been under review by the Government Accountability Office.

The same day he was sworn in to office, the president signed a proclamation ending the national emergency that then-President Donald Trump had declared on the southern border. The Biden pause froze not only funds that were shifted from other accounts and any other remaining balances, but also the remainder of $1.4 billion in an actual appropriation for wall construction in fiscal 2020.

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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