Bill would reverse funds transfer for wall, restore Wisconsin military contracts

    Oshkosh Defense vehicles
    Examples of the sort of vehicles made by Oshkosh Defense that might be affected by a transfer of funds from the Department of Defense to build the border wall with Mexico. Photo provided by Oshkosh Corp. via company website.

    Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined two-and-a-half dozen other Senate Democrats this week in a bill to reverse the Trump administration’s transfer of $3.8 billion from the Department of Defense to pay for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    The bill aims to pressure the administration to restore funding for military contracts with two Wisconsin manufacturers. It also would limit the DoD from diverting more funding for the wall, which was a top talking point for President Donald Trump in his 2016 campaign and has remained so since his election.

    Sen. Tammy Baldwin headshot
    Sen. Tammy Baldwin

    “You promised the people of Wisconsin that Mexico would pay for your ineffective border wall,” Baldwin (D-Wis.) wrote in a letter she sent to Trump on Monday. “However, you are once again making American taxpayers fund it and you are taking funding away from Wisconsin manufacturers that strengthen our national defense and create jobs.”

    Earlier this month, Trump announced the transfer of $3.8 billion in DoD funds for the wall project. Included in those funds, according to Baldwin’s office, were $101 million that Congress appropriated for Army heavy wheeled defense vehicles to be built by Oshkosh Defense, a brand of Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, Wis. Also included, Baldwin stated, was $650 million for an amphibious Navy ship powered by diesel-engine electric generation systems built by Fairbanks Morse in Beloit, Wis.

    The Restoring Military Priorities Act of 2020, authored by Sen. Dick Durbin (R-Ill.) and cosponsored by 31 other Democratic senators, including Baldwin, would reverse the $3.8 billion transfer. It would also cut how much the DoD could transfer under the fiscal 2020 budget, from $6 billion to less than $2.2 billion.

    The $3.8 billion diversion comes on top of $2.5 billion in DoD money transferred last spring to help pay for the wall.

    In addition, Trump has announced plans to move another $7.2 billion in military money to the wall project, “diverting funding from military families and forcing American taxpayers to pay for his vanity project and failed campaign promise,” Baldwin said in a statement.  

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.