PHOENIX (AP) – The Trump administration’s plan to divert money from defense projects to build a wall along the Mexico border could hurt Arizona’s military industry to pay for the barrier that isn’t necessary, Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly said Friday.
Kelly said the Pentagon’s plan could hurt the F-35 fighter program at Luke Air Force Base, where pilots are trained to fly the Air Force’s newest and most technologically sophisticated fighter, and the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma. Defense Department officials have not detailed specific cuts.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to take money away from our national defense, especially bases here in Arizona, to fund a project that in my opinion isn’t necessary,” Kelly told reporters following a tour of a Goodwill sorting and distribution center in Phoenix.
The Pentagon on Thursday slashed billions of dollars in funding for 17 Navy and Air Force aircraft and other military programs to free up money for the wall.
“Border security is necessary, but a 2,000-mile border wall, not what we need right now,” said Kelly, a retired astronaut who is married to former Rep. Gabby Giffords.
All together, President Donald Trump has obtained just over $3 billion for border barrier construction by working through regular congressional channels, subject to limitations imposed by lawmakers. He has used various transfer and emergency authorities to shift almost $7 billion more through the declaration of an emergency along the border, a forfeiture fund containing money seized by law enforcement, and funding for military counter-drug activities.
Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to the Senate after the death of John McCain and is the likely GOP nominee for the November election to finish his term, has not commented on the latest diversion of defense money. Last year, she voted against lifting Trump’s emergency declaration on the border, saying she’d received “assurances” that Arizona projects would not be affected. The Pentagon later cut $30 million from a planned equipment building at Fort Huachuca, though McSally says the project was already delayed for environmental issues.
Separately, Kelly praised the Democratic National Committee’s plans to host the party’s 11th debate in Phoenix next month, saying it “clearly shows that Arizona is important to the outcome of the presidential race.”
Kelly, who has presented himself as a moderate Democrat and independent thinker, said he’ll support the Democratic nominee no matter who the person is. Some moderate congressional Democrats have watched with alarm as Sen. Bernie Sanders has moved toward the front of the pack, many warning that the self-declared socialist could be damaging to the party’s efforts to pick up congressional seats.
“I will ultimately support who the nominee is in the Democratic Party,” he said, adding that only a small number of delegates have been awarded so far. “We’ve got a long way to go.”
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