Governors' Group Opposes Diverting National Guard, Reserve Funds to Build Border Wall

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border wall near Yuma, Arizona
Stacks of 30-foot tall border barrier await installation near Yuma, Arizona, January 22, 2020. (U.S. Army photo/Bobby Petty)

Opposition is growing to the Defense Department's transfer of nearly $1.7 billion from this year's National Guard and Reserve budget allocation to fund the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

On Monday, the National Governors Association (NGA) joined the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) in urging President Donald Trump not to redirect, among other funds, about $1.3 billion from the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account (NGREA) to border wall construction.

"Time and time again, with increasing frequency, the National Guard must answer the call to protect us from wildfires and hurricanes; flooding and landslides; and threats against our global and homeland security," NGA said in a news release Monday. "Governors are united in urging the Administration to reverse course on the planned reprogramming and restore these critical funds."

Trump frequently campaigned on extending and improving the border wall in 2016, and his financial requests to Congress, except for $1.4 billion to end a government shutdown last year, have largely gone unanswered.

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So the president declared a state of emergency at the border and tried to divert $3.6 billion, according to a Washington Post story last month. The Trump administration's latest plan would transfer $3.8 billion from the Defense Department's fiscal year 2020 budget allocation, according to a Politico article published Feb. 13.

Congress has historically fully funded the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account and increased investment to procure National Guard vehicles and aircraft, NGA staff noted.

"NGREA is critically important to ensuring the great reliability of our National Guard's dual use equipment and protecting the safety of our service members," NGA staff wrote in a news release.

The governors' support comes about a week after Michael McGuire, NGAUS chairman, and J. Roy Robinson, NGAUS president, wrote a joint letter to Trump asking him to take "swift action" to restore the funds to avoid "severe and long-term damage."

"All of these funds are essential to maintain National Guard interoperability, lethality, and readiness in support of the National Defense Strategy," they wrote Feb. 18. "We have concerns regarding the targeting of these specific accounts, making the National Guard disproportionally shoulder the burden as bill payer."

NGAUS also wants Trump to restore $100 million to the Army National Guard's High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee) modernization program and $196 million for the Air National Guard's C-130J aircraft. The administration's reprogramming also pulled all appropriated funds to support the National Guard's counter-narcotics operations, according to the letter.

Meanwhile, the Adjutants General Association of the United States has expressed concern over redirecting these funds away from equipment.

"Our airmen in Montana and elsewhere are flying the oldest model aircraft with technology that no longer meets the demands of our warfighter mission, yet production of newer model aircraft is cut by our DoD," Matt Quinn, Montana adjutant general and Adjutants General Association of the United States president, said in a statement. "The safety and readiness of our service members must be our first priority."

McGuire and Robinson reminded Trump of his campaign promise in 2016 when he addressed the NGAUS conference: "The National Guard will always have a direct line to the Oval Office," he told them.

"We responded to your call to action and deployed to the southern border utilizing the very same systems and equipment funded by these accounts," they wrote. "For that reason, we felt it was important to bring this urgent matter to your personal attention."

-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.

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