$8 million for project at 181st lost to border wall

Tribune-Star file photo/Joseph C. GarzaAirmen talk about the 181st Intelligence Wing's capabilities during a July 2014 public expo at the 181st in Terre Haute. Funding for an $8 million small arms range at Hulman Field was to be released in February 2020 will be delayed or canceled as President Donald Trump's administration shifts about $3.6 billion from U.S. military construction projects at home and abroad to construction of a southern border wall. 

A new small arms range at Terre Haute Regional Airport is among the $3.6 billion list of Pentagon construction projects to be delayed or canceled by the Trump administration to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Projects in 23 states, 19 countries and three U.S. territories would be stalled or killed by the plan, though just $1.1 billion in cuts would strike the continental U.S., according to the Pentagon. Almost $700 million would come from projects in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, with another $1.8 billion coming from projects on overseas bases.

The 181st Intelligence Wing, based at the Terre Haute airport, was to receive $8 million in February 2020 to build an indoor small arms range. The range was proposed as a method to reduce transportation of personnel to other shooting sites and ranges, such as at Camp Atterbury.

Also lost or delayed in Indiana was $16 million slated for construction of a rail car holding area at Crane Army Ammunition Plant.

A debate began when President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, seeking to use military funds to construct parts of the wall along the nation's southern border after Congress refused to appropriate enough money. Congress voted against the emergency declaration, but Trump vetoed that measure.

In May, a federal court issued a temporary injunction blocking the use of Defense Department funds to build parts of the wall, and an appeals court agreed. The Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling. In July, it issued  a 5-4 decision granting a stay of the injunction.

Congress has the option to reinstate the military construction projects during the fiscal year 2021 budget cycle, said Eighth District U.S. Rep. Larry Bucschon.

"First of all, I don't think it is a good idea to transfer money from military construction projects," Bucshon said. "But the money will be re-appropriated so that money is not going away. It is a temporary transfer of funds," he said Friday. 

"In fact, within the next month, when we fund the government for the next fiscal year, (Congress) will reinstate that money, so I am not concerned about it," Bucshon said. 

"The biggest problem we have is that we need more money to help secure our border. We need more money for our legal point of entry, for more staff, for more judges and we are at a partisan impasse, so this is what the result of that is. I am optimistic that the money will be reinstated and it will not be a long-term issue."

Sen. Mike Braun's office referred to statement Braun made Thursday in Indianapolis, saying that he ultimately believes that the move is the right thing to do in order to protect the U.S. border.

"It is sad...where you are taking money away from something else," Braun said. "... I don't like the fact that it will impact a couple projects here in Indiana. I think most Hoosiers, though, know that we need a secure border so we can get busy on enhancing legal immigration and solving all the problems that have resulted so recently."

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, in a statement, said he "agrees with the president that we must address the national security and humanitarian crisis taking place at our southern border," and that he will "continue working with the president, Congress, and the military to secure our border and restore funding for these projects as soon as possible.”

Trump has so far succeeded in building replacement barriers within the 654 miles of fencing built during the Obama and Bush administrations. The funding shift will allow for about 115 miles of new pedestrian fencing in areas where there isn’t any now.

Lawmakers who refused earlier this year to approve nearly $6 billion for the wall must now decide if they will restore the projects that are being used to provide the money.

“To pay for his xenophobic border wall boondoggle, President Trump is about to weaken our national security by stealing billions of dollars from our military,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who chairs a key military construction panel. “The House of Representatives will not backfill any projects he steals from today.”

One of the Senate’s most endangered Republicans in the 2020 election, Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, reported that her state is getting nicked for just $30 million from a project that was being delayed anyway. Georgia, where two potentially competitive Senate races loom next year, would be spared entirely, though powerful Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky., himself facing re-election, would lose a $63 million middle school at Fort Campbell.

The 175 miles covered by the Pentagon funding represents just a fraction of the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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