Defense cuts for border wall could include Fargo, Minot projects

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., introduced the USS Frank E. Evans Act, a bill that would add to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall the names of 74 crew members who died when the destroyer sank in 1969. Forum News Service file photo
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., introduced the USS Frank E. Evans Act, a bill that would add to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall the names of 74 crew members who died when the destroyer sank in 1969. Forum News Service file photo

Three North Dakota military construction projects could lose funding, according to a list from the Department of Defense that mentions potentially diverting the funds to the construction of a southern border wall.

A $66 million project to build a helicopter facility at Minot Air Force Base, a $27 million firing range and a $32 million National Guard Readiness Center in Fargo for the National Guard Army Reserve are among roughly 400 projects on the list. If completed, the cuts would free up almost $12.8 billion to build a wall.

Congress received the list shortly after President Donald Trump vetoed a bill on Friday which sought to overturn his declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border.

A national emergency would let Trump access military construction dollars to build a wall. In February, Congress agreed to give the president $1.4 billion; his administration said shortly afterward it plans to tap $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund and $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense’s budget for counter-drug activities.

The House is expected to vote on Trump’s veto on Tuesday, March 26. The House and Senate both need a two-thirds majority to override Trump’s decision and overturn the national emergency.

U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said on Tuesday it’s most likely that any dollars taken for the border wall will be re-filled by the next National Defense Authorization Act, legislation in Cramer’s committee that gives the Defense Appropriations subcommittee the ability to appropriate funding for military operations.

“It would be as though it never happened,” Cramer said. “It almost looks more like an accounting trick than it does an actual cutting of programs or projects.”

Cramer added the Department of Defense’s list is “400 percent” more money than Trump is asking for, and each project has “less than a 25 percent chance” of being selected. Still, Cramer said he’ll be “fighting like crazy” to keep North Dakota projects safe.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., during a meeting with the editorial board of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, said he had not seen the list of military construction projects endangered by the president's national emergency order. But Hoeven said the Minot Air Force Base projects, even if they are on the list of endangered projects, will be funded through the appropriations process.

Hoeven serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, including its military construction and defense subcommittees, and said he has assurances from the appropriations chairman that the Minot projects will be funding priorities.

Hoeven essentially said same thing regarding the Fargo National Guard Readiness Center, adding it’s too far along to be in jeopardy.

North Dakota National Guard Assistant Public Information Officer William Prokopyk said his group hopes to have bid authority for the Readiness Center by June.

“That’s kind of like ‘go!’ ‘OK, guys, everything’s in order with the plans and everything. We’ve got the money set aside. Go, put the bid up,’” Prokopyk said.

The Guard is currently leasing space for the Army Reserve in Fargo’s Industrial Park.

“It’ll provide a new modern efficient consolidated office, base training facilities and vehicle storage for our Army National Guard forces located in Fargo,” Prokopyk said of the center.