Who Will Pay for the Wall? DoD Edition

The latest harebrained idea from Mr. Trump — but I could believe it more than the Mexicans paying for the wall.

From WaPo:

President Trump frequently said Mexico would pay for a wall along the southern border as he sought the presidency in 2016. Now, he is privately pushing the U.S. military to fund construction of his signature project.

Trump, who told advisers he was spurned in a large spending bill last week when lawmakers appropriated only $1.6 billion for the border wall, has begun suggesting that the Pentagon could fund the sprawling construction, citing a “national security” risk.

Question: does it make sense to divert $12 to $40 billion (Mr. Trump asked for $25 billion) from preparedness, R&D for new weapons, build up of naval forces, etc. for a wall that almost nobody agrees would heighten national security?

35 thoughts on “Who Will Pay for the Wall? DoD Edition

  1. 2slugbaits

    Diverting funding from R&D to build a wall would be illegal. There are five major sub-appropriations within DoD:
    (1) Military pay
    (2) Procurement of principal item hardware
    (3) Operations & Maintenance
    (4) Research & Development
    (5) Military construction

    The DoD comptroller can coordinate (through OMB) the moving around of monies within each sub-appropriation category, but only Congress can approve changes across sub-appropriation categories. Each category has its own appropriation life. For example, military pay and O&M have a one-year obligation life. OTOH, military construction has a five year obligation life. So if Trump wants DoD to fund the building of his wall, then either Congress will have to appropriate more monies for military construction or currently authorized construction projects will have to be cut. More evidence that Trump is an idiot. What’s worse, none of his advisers seem to understand the basics of the appropriation process.

    1. 2slugbaits

      Following up. OMB Budget Table 3.2, under Function 050 (National Defense) shows an FY2018 authorization of $8.2B for Military Construction. It’s not obvious to me how Trump thinks he can divert $12B to $40B out of a subfunction that is only $8.2B.

    2. ilsm

      The Wall is better national security than star wars nothing burger radars and missiles….. a system of systems that don’t work to defend against rogue attacks. Reagan wanted it so he would not have to be Henry Fonda in Failsafe. Over $400B since 1988 and only limited success intercepting scripted flight rockets.

      Wall would come under (5) military construction, which is often pork. There are not enough districts along the wall.

      As to taking money from R&D the wall is as useful as the $400B going to F-35, to mention one of about $1.6T in the top 85 DoD pork systems.

      The cost of the wall is a fraction of the $100B in overruns on the F-35 [R&D plus procurement] that gave no more than the F-16 can do with stealth than can be seen in certain waveforms of radar. Or the $1.2T that F-35 will consume from O&M over its extended life trying to keep the world safe for ARAMCO and al Qaeda.

      The wall like most of the discretionary budget is pork sold on emotions.

      1. JBH

        Hear, hear! Though it would take a flatbed full of 2x4s cracked against the skulls of the Hillary-worshiping Keynesian idiots that populate this website before they get it.

        1. macroduck

          Keynes is my shepherd, I shall not demand reparations.
          He leadeth me to lie down by fiscal waters when liquidity is trapped.
          He restoreth my balances.
          Yay, when I walk through the valley of the shadow of dearth,
          I will fear no anti-intellectual drivel,
          For thine is the intellect, the reason, the clear-sightedness,

        2. Barkley Rosser

          The wall is completely worthless as national security. There are no terrorist coming across that border, and the drug runners will easily find alternatives. As for illegal migration, those hysterical about migrants from Mexico show that they have not been looking at any data, which shows that if anything net migration from Mexico is negative or at least flat. There are still immigrants coming in from Central America, but given that most evidence shows they are a net positive for our economy as well as having lower crime rates than native born, this wall is clearly a complete loser on any sort of reasonable benefit-cost analysis, a total loser.

          So, tell us, JBH, how many 2×4’s do you need cracking your head before you realize you have it stuck in a toilet?

          1. Steven Kopits

            Paradoxically, the data suggest that the Wall — in creating a barrier to exit — maintained Mexican undocumented immigrant levels higher in in the US in the 2010-2015 period than they would have been with a completely unprotected border. This is not true, of course, for Central American migrants, but still, it is a pretty sorry situation.

            We forecast illegal immigration across the southwest border around 590,000 persons this year, against 250,000 ICE removals and perhaps another 100,000 unforced repatriations. Thus, we might expect the undocumented population rising by about 250,000 this year from the US southwest border (and excluding other borders and visa overstays, for example).


            You can see me tonight at 8 pm eastern on the One America News Network (OAN) on ‘The Daily Ledger’, sparring with anchor Graham Ledger about the efficacy of the Wall and the benefits of market-based visas.

          2. Barkley Rosser


            Will not building a wall simply raise the rates charged by those black market smugglers?

  2. Moses Herzog

    There were 2 articles I had read in the hardcopy NYT in the last 6 months that spelled out some things pretty well on tools that would be more useful and cheaper than a borderwall. It may take me a hell of amount of time hunting those links down, but maybe next 48hrs or so I would try to get those up in this thread. Until such time, this is a pretty good educational resource and all you need to do is use your scroll down thingy or arrow down button after the link jump (slowly):

  3. CoRev

    2slugs claims he doesn’t know, blah, blah, blah, when he actually does know how DoD would fund this multi-year effort. Every major project has some R&D, O&M Construction etc. funding components. A X% salami cut demand is what we see all to often in DoD from each Dept and Agency from these pools, and would annually raise enough to build the wall in several years. Signing inter-agency agreements could add external DoD Federal sources for funding.

    Could it be done? Certainly! Will it? Dunno.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      CoRev: Gee, wonder why we need authorization/appropriation process. Should just give USG as a whole a bundle of money, and then set up a bunch of interagency agreements to swap monies. Sounds efficient! Sounds constitutional, for sure!

      1. CoRev

        Menzie, it isn’t a constitutional but an operational issue, MOA/Us are issued all the time within the Federal Government and even between Federal and lower level governments. Just one example: https://www.ice.gov/doclib/foia/secure_communities-moa/r_new_york.pdf
        Here’s intra-DoD brief explaining the status of an F-35 MOA. Note the Title 10 reference and a separate payment bullet. I can foresee 2 MOAs. First would set up the Federal Agencies, agreement of needs and division of responsibilities, which would be used to present as justification for Congressional approval. The second would be used to establish the Executive Branch management team and contacts and approvals, with the Congressional approval attached.

        Outside the Major Project procurements, ex: Abrams, F-35, etc. multi-year funding can use revolving funds. Here is a briefing of the FY15 DoD revolving funds. http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2015/budget_justification/pdfs/06_Defense_Working_Capital_Fund/DW_Narrative_fy2015_PB.pdf
        Even 2slugs might be funded this way. See the DLA reference.

        Regardless, due to the size of such a project it would be best if Congress was involved from the beginning with approval and oversight so that follow-on funding can be requested.

        There’s more but this is already buried deeply enough in the weeds.

        1. ilsm

          War story*……… we had a “program” we did not care to pursue. We had a contract ready to be awarded with ‘expiring’ funds. We were going to let the program die by letting the funds expire on 30 Sep.

          Letter blasted from USD: ‘appropriations are law’… ‘the extant bill has the program funded’…..’you ARE TO spend the money’…..” no matter what we thought of the useless nature of the program!

          Resulted in a weekend of work but on the contract we ‘spent’ the money. Vendor was connected to administration from the scuttlebutt!

          Second observation: a program manager who spends federal money that was not appropriated for the object is a criminal act under a code paragraph commonly referred to as the “Anti-Deficiency Act”. I have seen many examples but none ever prosecuted!

          It would take a lot of ‘looking the other way’ and ignoring the law to raid DoD appropriations without specific inclusion of the wall in the bills.

          *If I were a navy guy I would say sea story.

        2. 2slugbaits

          CoRev Your link to the comptroller doesn’t seem to work. But it doesn’t matter because I am VERY familiar with the working capital funds. In fact, I was one of six folks who set up the Army’s implementation of DMRD 904, which moved the acquisition of spares out of appropriated accounts and into a revolving fund account. Here’s a short summary of how it works:
          One correction to the Rand paper, which is quite old. The Rand paper refers to a “Retail” customer. The “Retail” level of logistics no longer exists. That went away about 15 years ago. Now O&M customers deal directly with the “Wholesale” level of logistics rather than through an intermediate “Retail” level.

          The first thing to note is that the working capital fund is not an actual appropriation. In fact, it isn’t even money. The revolving fund authorizations represent authority to obligate DoD to make future payments to vendors. The working capital fund is reimbursed after making a “sale” to a customer. The customer uses O&M appropriated dollars to “buy” an asset from the revolving fund. The O&M dollars received are then put into an account with the defense finance and accounting folks. The Treasury then pays the vendor out of that account. But the key here is that the revolving fund can only promise (or “obligate”) purchases from vendors up to the amount of expected O&M dollars in the future. In other words, even though the revolving fund is not in itself an appropriated fund, its income stream is based on future O&M appropriations. In short, you cannot use the revolving fund to build the wall because you would still need an O&M appropriation to reimburse the revolving fund. A second reason is that the revolving fund can only be used to procure items and services associated with “21”, “22”,”23″ or “24” financial accounting codes. You cannot use revolving funds to procure things like an Abrams (which has an “H1”) accounting code or the wall, which is a class of supply “4” item and falls outside of the revolving fund.

          The DoD financial and cash management system is quite byzantine. Unless you spend a lot of time working projects for the various G8 staffs it’s unlikely you would ever develop a deep understanding of how things work. In fact, very few general officers understand how the revolving fund accounts actually work.

          BTW, salaries for people who work within the revolving fund are paid out of a revolving fund surcharge, but the scope of that was established under DMRD 901, not DMRD 904. Operations research folks are funded out of O&M or R&D appropriations (depending on the project) and not revolving fund accounts. I recently retired.

          1. CoRev

            2slugs, ” I recently retired.” congratulations! Hope you are enjoying your new found free time.

    2. 2slugbaits

      CoRev First, the amount of O&M and R&D that could be used for construction of the wall is miniscule. And OMB would still have to get passive acceptance from Congress…something that is unlikely given the active interest in the wall. Secondly, you’d be hard pressed to worry about military readiness and aging technology and equipment and then turn around and cut O&M and R&D and Procurement. So no, it can’t be done without someone going to jail. And it won’t be done.

      1. pgl

        C’mon guys. The best use of these resources would be to fix the NYC subway system. Trust me on this one.

        1. 2slugbaits

          Agreed. The marginal benefit of an extra dollar’s worth of the kind of defense spending that Team Trump wants is less than the marginal benefit of just about any domestic infrastructure project. If Trump wants to do some military construction, then he should look at rebuilding the nation’s lock and dam system run by the Corps of Engineers. That would at least yield a positive benefit to the domestic economy. Instead we get appropriations for additional weapon system platforms that the services don’t really want (if you gave them truth serum) because they will become white elephants after troop levels and O&M budgets contract…as they inevitably will.

      2. CoRev

        2slugs, I agree: “And OMB would still have to get passive acceptance from Congress…”, but disagree with your belief in its difficulty. And no one will go to jail. On a smaller basis its doen all the time.

        1. CoRev

          The key is making it possible so Congress doesn’t have to vote. Drawing the funds from already passed appropriations. What’s being missed is the wqall’s funding is minuscule compared to the DoD budget and it is needed by multiple Executive agencies.

          1. 2slugbaits

            CoRev No. This is simply wrong. Only Congress can move appropriations across major sub-functions. The DoD comptroller can move monies across point accounts (e.g., P7S to P7M accounts or AWCF-SMA.06 to AWCF-SMA.07) in coordination with OMB, but not across major sub-functions. In fact, on the news tonight several congressmen and senators pointed out that Trump cannot do this without Congressional approval.

            Technical note. When moving monies across low level point accounts the usual procedure is for the Army, Navy and Air Force department comptrollers to send a weekly request to the DoD comptroller. The DoD comptroller then forwards the requests to the OMB Director. OMB then sends the request to Congress…typically late Wednesday afternoon. Under current law Congress then has five calendar days to reject the request, otherwise the request is considered approved. Why Wednesday afternoons? Because Congress doesn’t start new business on Thursdays, they are out of town on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. That’s five calendar days. It’s an old game.

          2. CoRev

            2slugs, you described why I think it is a much easier process to get Congressional approval! What President Trump should first do is call another round table meeting with the Cabinet Officers and Congressional Committee Chairs affected. That meeting would be to define and document the National Security issues. With has agreement at that level, he can then proceed with the operational MOA/Us and approval steps.

            What everyone is missing is it does not need to be funded all at once but annually over the life of the project. The 1st year is funded out of current appropriations, while out-years separately appropriated. How many years? 2-4 years would get the critical areas’ construction started . Years 3 onward become normal O&M issues.

            If Congressional political will is the issue, how much national security is wrapped up with drug smuggling and potential jihadists across the border? Declassify just some of this intelligence.

            Once a wall is built then the Steven Kopits solution is more workable for paying O&M and improvements.

            If Dems think they have a mid-term election issue with gun control, then let them fight this approach for reducing drug deaths.

          3. CoRev

            Build the Wall to help CBD improve its interdictions. From the 2017 CBD Report: https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2017-Dec/cbp-border-security-report-fy2017.pdf
            Pertinent CBD drug seizure numbers:
            “CBP seized:
            1.59 million pounds of marijuana;
            273,580 pounds cocaine;
            66,617 pounds of methamphetamine;
            5,760 pounds of heroin; and
            1,485 pounds of fentanyl

            While most illicit drug smuggling attempts occur along the Southwest border…”

            Build the wall to save lives from drug overdoses, an expanding National Security and Health issue.

            A cost/benefit analysis based upon the illegal immigration issue says this: https://cis.org/Report/Cost-Border-Wall-vs-Cost-Illegal-Immigration
            “Newly released research by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) done for the Department of Homeland Security indicates that 170,000 illegal immigrants crossed the border successfully without going through a port of entry in 2015.3 While a significant decline in crossings from a decade ago, it still means that there may be 1.7 million successful crossings in the next decade. If a wall stopped just 9 to 12 percent of these crossings it would pay for itself.
            If a wall stopped half of those expected to successfully enter illegally without going through a port of entry at the southern border over the next 10 years, it would save taxpayers nearly $64 billion — several times the wall’s cost.”

            Note: in Trumps 1ast year as president individuals apprehended while trying to enter the country illegally dropped by ~20%, and FY 2018 is already showing a large decrease from 2017. Trump’s 1st year has already saved the more than the cost of the wall, with the walls savings, if built, increasing even that savings for American tax payers.

          4. Barkley Rosser

            Co Rev,

            Your estimates of supposed cost savings from the wall are not even a joke. Why does stopping people from coming across the border save us one lousy dime? Heck, these people will benefit our economy, or are you unaware of the studies on that matter? Apparently so.

            Maybe there will be some modest slowing of the flow of drugs, but I doubt much. And the way to stop the major flows,marijuana, would be to legalize it in the US. The biggest problem with that dominating marijuana flow is all the associated violent crime and corruption mostly in Mexico. Legalixzing it here would pretty much end most of that at much lower cost than building this stupid wall to please a bunch of racists.

          5. CoRev

            Barkley, did you even bother to read the reference? The study was not mine. When you say there may be a modest slowing of drugs, most would take that. as heroin is increasing and the nasty killer fentanyl are increasing tremendously. I’ll take your modest slowing.

            BTW, with my tax savings I just paid off my student loans, asked for payoff balance on my mortgage and started my whole house remodel project. How you doing with yours?

          6. Barkley Rosser


            If you were able to do all you claim with your tax savings, then you must have a multi-million dollar income. Otherwise your “savings” would not remotely amount to enough to even one of those items unless it was really tiny. And if you have a multi-million dollar income then you did not need an increase in tax savings to pay off your student loans, much less do any of the rest of that.

            Something tells me that you are lying. Really. Why do you put such blatantly false nonsense up here in a public post? You are definitely lowering your credibility down into the dump where Peak Trader’s is located.

          7. noneconomist

            CoRev: Re building a wall to inderdict substances endangering the health of the general public
            If you’re thinking the wall is a good use of funds to disrupt the supply chain causing thousands of deaths per year, perhaps you might want to consider similar measures to protect those who die in much larger numbers from readily available, yet potentially very dangerous, substances.
            Latest data I can find from CDC and NIH show the following: Tobacco related deaths/year=480,000+ . Alcohol related deaths/year=85,000+
            Opioid overdose deaths/2016? 16,000. Overall deaths/year from opioids may range upwards of 60,000.
            This indicates wall building for drug interdiction should have a place other than the southern border , since it’s quite likely many opioid users are also smokers and drinkers, especially those from the upper South and Midwest where smoking rates are among the highest in the country (Kentucky and West Virginia, southeastern Ohio in particular) with rates of alcohol consumption.
            Building a wall around Kentucky, for example, may deprive me of my favorite Kentucky bourbon but, maybe, it will save me from becoming a falling down drunk. Good news: I’ll still have California wine to lead to possible personal degradation.
            I don’t smoke, but just think of the walls we can build around those states which are among the greatest threats to our overall health.

  4. pgl

    I’m all for reducing defense spending that is wasteful so we can properly fund the other priorities of the Federal government but the wall is the biggest waste of all time. Eisenhower is likely rolling in his grave.

  5. Moses Herzog

    This first article is one of the two articles, the 2nd one is just one I grab-bagged because I’m too lazy to hunt for the 2nd article.


    I guess I could hunt down 20 articles that I thought expressed something articulately or at a standard I wish I was intelligent enough to express it, but the bottom line is, it’s 2018, and if you think resourceful people can’t find a way to get around a wall that won’t be that tall (even if fully funded) to begin with, then you are pretty damned DUMB. Would you erect a 30 foot wood fence around your picnic area to keep flies and/or ants out?? Think about real hard and I think even you dumb-*ss MAGA people can decipher that little riddle.

    HINT FOR DUMB MAGA PEOPLE THAT CAN’T FIGURE IT OUT: House flies fly, ants dig, go ask your dumb MAGA Mom what it means in relationship to “a wall”

  6. Moses Herzog

    WARNING: Off topic of blog post
    You know this lady has always been a supreme nutjob. You have to “love” a woman who claims her show is centered around “working class families” but when the interviewer asks her about labor unions she clams up and her “representative” tells her to ignore the question.
    WOW, all these years I thought “There is nothing on planet Earth that would get Roseanne Barr to shut her overbearing loudmouth. NOTHING Wrong. Just say two words to the woman with “the TV show representing working class people”—just say “labor unions” and the normally articulate Jewish woman instantly becomes a deaf mute.

    WOW, Roseanne Barr, “provocateur” “revolutionary” “renegade” “activist”.
    Journalist: Uh, so Roseanne, what are your thoughts on labor unions??
    Roseanne: “Uh, duurrrrrrrr!!!! What?? Where’s my lawyer??? Duurrrrrrr!!!”

  7. ottnott

    The Texans are damn lucky they had a wall around the Alamo. They might have taken a beating without it.

    1. Moses Herzog

      @ ottnott
      I assume you’re making some kind of a “Dad joke” here, which really isn’t funny.

      But your comment related to “a wall” reminds me of when Mitt Romney was running around telling everyone America wasn’t “battle ready” because we didn’t have many WW2 battleships anymore. And President Obama had to remind him we have these “new things” called Supercarriers and nuclear submarines. It’s always good to educate the Mormons. I’m not sure if President Obama also informed proud Mormon (and soon to be U.S. Senator of Utah) Romney that most churches no longer believe blacks “got the cooties”, but hey, you can’t have everything.

      No worries on therm taking blatant racist Brigham Young’s statue down in Salt Lake City. No need to even pop an aspirin on that account. Brigham Young was a “religious figure”, so that gives Brigham Young special racist card-carrying privileges. It’s kind of like (hypothetically) carrying the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card of racism. “Religious figure” means your racist statue is “in good standing”.

  8. Erik Poole

    If the Trump Wall is so supposed to boost national security by keeping out “drugs”, then why not do a Gestapo-like sweep of all large major urban centres and toss in jail all the cocaine users, especially those who earn over $100K per annum?

    Anybody caught with Mexican weed during this Gestapo-like sweep (monitored by Israeli advisors) has to explain to Fox TV news, what the hell is wrong with their judgement and taste.

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