Letter to Secretary Mattis Urges Him to Turn Down Unauthorized Request from the Homeland Security Department

Washington, DC - House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Ranking Member Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN), and House Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee Ranking Member Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, urging him to reject the Department of Homeland Security’s request to divert an estimated $450 million away from military readiness and infrastructure funding for 31 miles of border wall.

“It is utterly irresponsible and appalling that President Trump wants to take away funding for military readiness and infrastructure in order to spend it on his border wall,” said Smith. “We are trying to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the facilities and training they need to face serious dangers while defending our country. If Secretary Mattis follows through on this request, it would undermine those efforts. President Trump should not be taking away money from our troops and spending it on his wall.” 

“At a time when our country faces many serious national security threats around the world, it is simply outrageous to divert funds from the Pentagon to President Trump’s wasteful border wall,” Lowey said. “House Democrats stand united against this reckless proposal that endangers military readiness and undermines Congress’ Constitutional power of the purse.” 

“This is simply not the Department of Defense’s responsibility,” said Visclosky. “Military leaders who constantly testify and defend budget requests are well aware of the Congressional authorization and appropriation processes. We must continue to follow these established and Constitutional procedures to ensure that the Department of Defense is able to meet its stated objectives and support our brave men and women in uniform.”   

“President Trump’s willingness to sacrifice our military’s training and infrastructure to pay for an ineffective border wall is a shameful betrayal of the uniformed men and women who keep this nation safe,” said Wasserman Schultz. “No one who bravely serves our country should be asked to sacrifice our military readiness to pay for this boondoggle.”

The letter, which can be found at this link, reads as follows:


September 5, 2018



The Honorable James N. Mattis

Secretary of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1000


Dear Secretary Mattis,

Last month the Department of Homeland Security transmitted a request to the Department of Defense to enhance existing border fencing and construct new border infrastructure along 31 miles of the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Arizona. With an estimated cost of $450 million, we write to express our strong opposition to the use of Department of Defense funds for this purpose and respectfully urge you to deny the Department of Homeland Security’s request.

In countless hearings and briefings this year we have heard from senior civilian and military leadership on the readiness challenges our military currently faces. We have heard about the Department of Defense’s plans to rebuild military readiness, to include investing in additional spare parts and maintenance, increasing training opportunities, growing certain military occupational specialties, and modernizing aging weapon systems. We have also heard the repeated calls from the Department for stable and predictable funding. With that in mind, we fail to see how diverting $450 million away from efforts to rebuild military readiness is in the Department or the taxpayers’ best interests.

We are also aware of the risk the Department of Defense has taken in new military construction and the significant backlog in sustainment, restoration, and modernization of facilities that support military readiness and quality of life for military personnel and their families. Department of Defense officials testified that the facilities maintenance backlog across the Department amounted to $116 billion and that 31% of the department’s facilities were in poor or failing condition. Funding the requested border infrastructure project may divert resources away from authorized and appropriated military construction projects, deferring critical investments to meet new mission requirements or replacing failing infrastructure. 

In addition to concerns with the prioritization of these funds, we also have questions about what statutory authority would be used to fund this project. We note that military construction projects that exceed the minor construction threshold require line-item authorization and appropriation by Congress. Congress has not provided an authorization or appropriation for a border infrastructure military construction project and we do not believe the scope or justification for the project warrants the use of emergency construction authorities or consideration outside of the annual authorization and appropriations process. 

While reform to our immigration system is needed, we do not believe it is a prudent use of taxpayer funds to have the Department of Defense spend approximately $450 million on 31 miles of border infrastructure.  Instead, the Department of Defense should focus its time and resources on infrastructure needs that address the military readiness shortfalls that have been repeatedly highlighted by civilian and military leadership.

We appreciate your consideration of our concerns and look forward to hearing from you on this important topic.








Adam Smith                                                                Nita M. Lowey

Ranking Member                                                        Ranking Member

House Armed Services Committee                            House Appropriations Committee






Peter J. Visclosky                                                        Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Ranking Member                                                        Ranking Member

House Appropriations Committee                              House Appropriations Committee

Subcommittee on Defense                                          Subcommittee on Military Construction,