In a letter to the president Tuesday, the New Hampshire federal delegation opposed the possible reallocation of congressionally approved funding for construction at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to be used for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Signed by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, the letter urged President Donald Trump to consider the impact of his declared state of emergency, and decision to potentially reprogram military construction funds, on national security and defense capabilities.
Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in order to fund his promised southern border wall, and the nation’s military construction budget was designated as one of three avenues federal dollars were poised to be diverted from to free up funding. Fiscal year 2019 includes approximately $161 million for major projects at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, including dry dock upgrades.
The two other avenues are asset forfeiture funds at Department of Treasury and drug interdiction money at the Department of Defense.
“Raiding the Department of Defense’s military construction accounts will have a devastating impact on our national security and will disrupt carefully laid out plans to upgrade our nation’s military infrastructure,” the delegation wrote in its letter.
The delegation referenced the February 2018 Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan, created to address deficiencies and needs across the country’s public shipyards. The overall plan calls for a $21 billion investment over the next 20 years. Congress has already approved funding for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for paint, blast and rubber facility consolidation, consolidated warehouse replacement, Dry Dock 1 superflood basin, and an extend portal crane rail. Shipyard Cmdr. Capt. David Hunt has been a strong public proponent that dry dock modernization is crucial for the future of the yard, and its abilities to service submarines efficiently. Dry Dock 1 currently cannot service Virginia class submarines.
“Given the already high demand of submarine maintenance and the projected submarine shortfall, we cannot undermine national security by diverting these funds,” the delegation wrote.
It still remains unclear which military construction projects could be vulnerable to loss of funding.
Last week, Richard Smith, president of the Portsmouth Federal Employees Metal Trades Council on the shipyard, said loss of funding “would be a major blow to us.”
Also at risk of losing funding are New Hampshire National Guard projects approved by Congress in recent years, including a new readiness center in Pembroke.
A member of the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, Shaheen said in a statement Tuesday, “When candidate Trump campaigned in New Hampshire, he promised that funding would come from Mexico to pay for his wall, not from taxpayer dollars set aside for drug interdiction, and certainly not military construction projects like those planned for the shipyard and New Hampshire’s National Guard.”
Sixteen states, including Maine, have filed a lawsuit in federal court, challenging Trump’s use of executive power in declaring the national emergency. It’s also expected Democratic leaders will push to pass a resolution to repeal the action.