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March 14, 2019

King to Acting Defense Secretary: Which Military Construction Projects “On the Chopping Block” for Border Wall?

Following Push for Accountability by King, Others, Acting Defense Secretary Commits to Provide List of At-Risk Military Construction Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) pressed Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Under Secretary of Defense David Norquist to identify which authorized military construction projects are subject to being cancelled or reduced in order to reallocate $3.6 billion to construction of the President’s border wall. After questioning from Senator King and his colleagues throughout the hearing, the Acting Defense Secretary agreed to provide a full list of projects at risk due to the President’s declaration. The Senator’s questioning came during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). 

“Secretary Shanahan, you testified earlier an answer to Senator Reed's question that you don't know which military construction expenditures are going to be canceled in in favor of this $3.6 billion,” said Senator King. “You've had a month, I find it very hard to believe that there's not a list. Are you testifying there's no list -- there's no information you can give us about which of construction projects are on the chopping block?... I'm confused. I mean either projects are going to be canceled to find $3.6 billion or they're not… I'm very concerned about this. I don't think we're getting full information. I intend to follow up.”

After Senator King’s line of questioning, several of his colleagues followed up to pressure the witnesses for more specifics on his inquiries. In a response to Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ranking Member of SASC, Acting Secretary Shanahan committed to provide senators with a list of military construction projects that were at risk of being cancelled by day’s end. At the end of the hearing, Senator King asked one final question to attempt to clarify the witness testimony as to whether or not Fiscal Year 2019 projects were at risk of being cut. His exchange with Under Secretary Norquist is below:


King: My father used to say, the Pentagon is the only building in America you can drive straight towards and it keeps getting further away, and I feel a little bit like that today. Is it your testimony that 2019 military construction projects that were authorized and appropriated for are off the table, or are they only off the table if they’re off they’re obligated before September 30th?

Norquist: Senator, it’s the award date, what we’re looking at and prioritizing is contracts that award later.

King: So if there’s a project in the 2019 bill that hasn’t been awarded. It’s potentially on the chopping block. Is that correct?

Norquist: That is correct. (Begins at 01:26)


Prior to Senator King’s final question, Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) attempted to adjourn the hearing. Upon Senator King’s request for an additional opportunity to speak, Inhofe granted him a final question and took the opportunity to compliment Senator King’s commitment and diligence, stating: “I have to say this about Senator King…Of all the members, Democrat and Republican, you are the one who has been the most responsible. You have been to every single meeting, no one else can say that…I’ll withdraw that [adjournment] long enough for you to do one question. Only because it’s you.” (Begins at 00:14)

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