Fort Carson could potentially lose $100M meant for construction due to Trump's emergency declaration

Special Operations Forces could be affected
Posted at 3:42 PM, Feb 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 15:35:28-05

DENVER – Fort Carson could potentially miss out on more than $100 million in military construction money because of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build the border wall, which Colorado is challenging in a lawsuit along with several other states.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday they would be joining a lawsuit, along with several other states, which was filed late Monday in the U.S. District Court of Northern California and challenges the president’s emergency declaration, which came after Congress declined to appropriate the $5.7 billion Trump had sought for the border wall in its latest funding measure.

“Colorado will join at least 12 other states in a multistate lawsuit challenging President Trump’s unconstitutional emergency declaration to build a border wall,” Weiser and Polis said in a joint statement Monday. “After reviewing the specifics of this action over the weekend, we concluded that Colorado could lose tens of millions in military construction dollars that would be diverted to build the wall.”

Trump’s declaration allows the administration to access $3.5 billion from the military construction budget already appropriated to other projects by Congress, as well as $2.5 billion from the government’s drug interdiction program and $600 million from its drug forfeiture fund.

According to a House Appropriations Committee list of projects that could be at risk under an emergency declaration, which was obtained by Denver7, there are three FY2019 military construction projects in Colorado that could potentially lose their funding – all at Fort Carson, and some of which involve Special Operations Forces.

Those include a $77 million vehicle maintenance shop, a $15.3 million Special Operations Forces Human Performance Training Center; and a $9 million mountaineering facility for Special Operations Forces, according to the document.

But the list contains more than $8 billion in potential FY2019 military construction projects that could be affected, and the emergency declaration would only allow the president to take $3.5 billion worth of money from the projects on the list.

“Our military bases play a critical role in our nation’s readiness and are economic drivers in several communities,” Weiser and Polis said their statement. “In this action, we are fighting for Colorado’s interests and defending the rule of law.”

A spokesman for Weiser additionally said there were other possible military installations in Colorado that could potentially be affected as well.

A spokesperson for Fort Carson did not immediately respond to questions about the possible loss of funding or the specific projects on Monday.

A senior administration official told ABC News late last week that only lower priority construction projects would be targeted, though an ABC News contributor and former Marine Corps pilot said that delaying construction on Special Operations Forces training centers could affect military readiness.

The California Attorney General’s Office, which is leading the lawsuit, filed the complaint against Trump’s declaration late Monday afternoon.

"President Trump has veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making," the suit states.

The portions of the lawsuit pertaining to Colorado make two arguments about how the emergency declaration could affect the state: the use of drug interdiction program money would likely impact funding to Colorado, and the use of military construction project money would affect the multiple military bases and posts in the state.

“First, Defendants intend to fund the wall using money from the Pentagon’s drug interdiction program, which will likely impact funding to Colorado and affect Colorado’s ability to address drugs illegal under state law in Colorado,” the lawsuit reads. “Second, Colorado is home to many major military bases. … These military bases play a critical role in our nation’s defense and to the economy of the State of Colorado. The use of funding for a southern border wall rather than for necessary maintenance and repairs to these military bases harms Colorado and its economy.”

The suit names President Trump and the United States of America as the defendants. Plaintiffs include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the attorney general of Michigan.

They are asking a judge to declare Trump’s emergency declaration unconstitutional and to permanently enjoin Trump and the government from constructing a border wall without an appropriation by Congress.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., who represents the district that includes Fort Carson, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that he had communicated with the president about the funding and that he was hopeful the projects wouldn't be affected.

“I share concerns about the effects of pulling military construction funds from the FY19 defense budget and have communicated that directly to the President," Lamborn said in a statement. "However, given the importance of Fort Carson, Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases, and other defense facilities throughout the state to our national defense, I remain hopeful that they will not be adversely effected. I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress and with the administration as this process unfolds to ensure our installations continue to receive the resources they need in FY19, FY20, and beyond.”

Polis last week called Trump's plan "an astonishing abuse of power" and a "waste of taxpayer dollars," while Weiser said, "We will fight this action with every tool at our disposal."

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., slammed the president's decision and echoed Weiser's and Polis' sentiments.

“Military construction projects are critical to the readiness of the men and women stationed at Fort Carson and their ability to protect our nation’s security," he said in a statement. "Coloradans should be worried about a White House that is targeting warfighting projects supported by Congress and military and community leaders in Colorado Springs in order to pay for a wall that national security experts have said is not needed.”

Several progressive groups held a rally at the state Capitol Monday to protest the emergency declaration.

White House immigration adviser Stephen Miller hinted that Trump would veto any challenge from Congress made to his declaration, saying the president "is going to protect his national emergency declaration."