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President Trump could not persuade Congress to sign a $ 25 billion call to build a wall along the US border with Mexico, and efforts to get the Pentagon to break the tab could be one another kind of wall hit.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters on Thursday that Secretary of Defense James Mattis had talked with Trump about the request this week.
"The secretary talked to the president about it," White said at a regular meeting. "Securing the Americans and securing the nation is of the utmost importance to the secretary."
White said she could offer no extra details but budget and military spending experts say the unusual request may not be legal – at least not in this year. Complex budgetary and expenditure rules limit how far the authorities can deviate from the strict funding guidelines contained in the expenditure accounts.
As soon as the Congress approves an expenditure measure and the President signs the bill, the expenditures will be fixed by the end of the year fiscal year. The spending bill passed last week closes spending levels by the end of September.
Every federal agency has some flexibility to shift money as their needs change. The rules for the Ministry of Defense are the most generous of the group. This additional leeway is not enough to cover the enormous cost of building a boundary wall, said Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"Money is used by Congress for a purpose and with certain restrictions," said Harrison. "Once you've used it, you have to use it for what it was for."
Harrison said the military could move smaller amounts in the order of several million dollars from program to program by using the so-called reprogramming authority. But Congress must stop any major funding shift.
"You can not make $ 25 billion," said Harrison. "You have to use that authority every year because sometimes money is in the wrong place, you would not want to spend a lot of money on your wall."
The congressional approval is not easy to get. The chairmen and senior members of the House and Senate Force Committees, Subcommittee Subcommittees, and Senate Subcommittees should all sign for the transfer. This means that four Democrats and four Republicans must all agree to cut $ 25 billion from the Pentagon budget to build the border wall.
House and Senate assistants have also poured cold water on the plan. There is no legal way for the Department of Defense to make this type of transfer without Congress's new legislation, according to one of these consultants.
The plan also faces major political hurdles – even in the Republican Party
The bill spent nearly $ 660 billion on the Pentagon – an increase of about $ 61 billion the fiscal year 2017.
The republican leaders celebrated this rise as the biggest boost to defense funding in 15 years. The $ 25 billion shift to the wall would massively degenerate this increase.
This amount of money would be nearly enough to buy two more of Trump's $ 13 billion aircraft carrier unveiled last year. It's almost equivalent to the $ 25.4 billion increase to procure, replace, and improve platforms and weapons included in the spending bill.
An official Congressional draft for the newly approved spending measure reported that these planned investments will include $ 23.8 billion for the purchase of 14 Navy ships, $ 1.6 billion for 30 new and 50 restored Apache helicopters and $ 1.1 billion for 56 Black Hawk helicopters.