Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Murkowski, Sullivan worried Alaska could lose military funding to border wall

Alaska’s two Republican senators said they are concerned at the possibility of Alaska military funding being redirected toward President Donald Trump’s border wall effort.

Trump declared a national emergency regarding the Southern border last week, a move that will likely take funding from the Department of Defense to fund the border wall. That is, if the declaration doesn’t run into any legal roadblocks.  Democrats in the House and Senate are already questioning the legality of the declaration. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joined the group, referring to the declaration as being on questionable legal ground in a recent interview with the Daily News-Miner.

Since then, Murkowski has raised concerns over whether the border wall will take funding away from military projects in Alaska.

“The president has made clear that border security is his priority, but through this action he is seeking to basically take moneys that have already been determined, appropriated by the Congress and moving those to his preferred policies,” Murkowski said. “I have yet to learn how this would impact not only potential military construction projects in Alaska but what it means for the other sources of funding that the president has identified.”

Murkowski added herself to a list of senators sending a letter to Trump that emphasized the importance of the F-35 fighter aircraft effort.

“Discussion as to what Alaskan projects may fall into that category, we have some significant projects underway up in the Interior. Some $200 million at Eielson for the F-35 squadron; for the long-range radar discrimination at Clear; projects at Greely; projects down at JBER,” Murkowski said. “We have not yet been able to clearly get a list from the Department of Defense as to what may be out there.”

Murkowski said she feels like this move goes against Congress’ appropriations powers.

“This is funding that has already gone through a legislative process. It has been submitted by the administration for this request, we have reviewed it, we have considered it, we have moved it out of both bodies and it’s been signed into law by the president. And now the administration is coming and saying ‘We’re going to take from this one, we’re going to take from that one,’” she said. “Well, some of us would argue that you are then usurping the authority of the Congress when it comes to appropriations.”

Murkowski made it clear the president’s decision to declare a national emergency was not her preferred option.

“I’ll be direct. I don’t like this. It takes us down a road and with a precedent that, if allowed, we may come to regret,” she said. “I don’t like the precedent at all.”

While Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, has steered clear of criticizing Trump’s emergency declaration, he told reporters Thursday that he’s not sure the declaration was needed. Sullivan noted that Trump’s announcement relies on three legal authorities and funding sources. The first is the Treasury Forfeiture Fund of about $600 million; the second is a law that allows the defense secretary to authorize fence, road and infrastructure construction along the border; neither of which require a national emergency. The third funding source is the one that required Trump’s emergency declaration and could potentially take military funding from other projects, Sullivan added.

“The third one is the one that a lot of folks have focused on. It’s probably legal but I don’t think it was needed. Even the White House isn’t sure they’re going to use it,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan noted the importance of state military functions, such as the missile defense infrastructure at Fort Greely as well as the effort to bring F-35s to Eielson Air Force Base, expressing concern that projects could lose funding to the border.

“I do have some concerns that if that came from missile defense ... or with the F-35s. We’re going to monitor that closely. We’re already asking questions about where that’s going to come from,” he said.

Sullivan highlighted the value of Alaska’s military installations during his speech before the Legislature.

“In just that past three years, Congressman Young, Sen. Murkowski and I have secured over $1.3 billion in military construction for our state, including the F-35s to Eielson and a new missile field at Fort Greely,” Sullivan said. “We know this is good for America’s national security, but it’s also good for Alaskan workers.”

Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young was unable to be reached for comment on specific projects such as the F-35s, Young said in an earlier statement that he worried the declaration could “target” military funding elsewhere.

“While I support increased security at our borders, I am concerned that this national emergency declaration is targeting military construction funds that could be vital to Alaska and impact our military’s ability to carry out their mission,” he said Feb. 15.

By:  Erin McGroarty
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner