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Pentagon approves plan to shift $1.5B for wall along border

The Pentagon is shifting $1.5 billion originally to support the Afghan security forces to now help pay for the U.S.-Mexican

The reprogramming comes in addition to $1 billion the Pentagon pulled out of Army manpower accounts in March that allowed the administration to build another 80 miles of wall on the southern border.

"The funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes and revised requirements", the statement said, without elaborating.

And House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told Shanahan during a panel hearing in March that the Pentagon would likely lose the reprogramming authority if it moved forward with the $1 billion funding transfer.

The Pentagon said the funding would be used to replace fences on four projects near Tucson, Ariz., and El Centro, Texas. He declared a national emergency in order to redirect funding to build a border wall without Congress' approval, and his fellow Republicans in Congress sustained his veto of legislation that would have stopped it.

The lawmakers rejected Shanahan's assertion that using the money for the border wall would not affect military readiness.

The plan to reallocate money was announced in February and remains controversial.

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would prohibit using military construction funds on a border wall.

"There's going to be another round of this reprogramming controversy", Cancian said.

"Biggest challenge in balancing it all - I'd say, you know for me, it's about practicing "selectful" neglect, so that we can stay focused on the future, but not ignore a lot of the emerging, really important issues that pop up day-to-day that you don't plan for." .

The $1.5 billion was moved from a number of different programs into the Pentagon's counter-drug account.

All 10 Democrats on Senate appropriations subcommittees that handle defense, veterans affairs and related spending, wrote to Shanahan to oppose the decision.

As NBC News reported, Congress was notified of the Pentagon's plan to shift the funds on Friday. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Patty Murray of Washington, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Dianne Feinstein of California, and Jon Tester of Montana.

"We are dismayed that the department has chosen to prioritize a political campaign promise over the disaster relief needs of our service members". The Pentagon document said previously unanticipated savings had been found in the Afghan program.

The Pentagon also is taking US$78 million from the Coalition Support Fund, which is money used to reimburse coalition partners - mainly Pakistan - for logistical and military support for American military operations.

In a letter to Shanahan later on Friday, several Democratic senators sharply criticised the diversion of funds from the Afghan war effort. The program has been unpopular and targeted for cuts on Capitol Hill in the past, so it might have been an easy target, Cancian said.

The Pentagon is weighing which projects from the military construction budget will be affected to help pay up to $3.6 billion for the wall and whether there is a military need for it.