Biden gives Utah’s Hill Air Force Base $24M Trump took for border wall

Trump had shifted more than $2 billion in defense money to pay for expanding the wall along the border with Mexico.

(Christian Chavez | AP) An older section of the border wall divides Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, from Sunland Park, New Mexico, top, on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

The Biden administration is returning $24 million to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base that former President Donald Trump diverted to help pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The White House announced Friday that it would be restoring a total of $2 billion to 66 Defense Department projects that were previously cut to shift money to Trump’s border wall.

That means that Hill can move forward with its Composite Aircraft Antenna Calibration Facility, essentially a building to repair F-22 antennas rather than sending them to contract facilities elsewhere.

“We’re ending the prior administration’s pillaging of military funds for a needless wall along the southern border,” administration officials said in announcing the decision.

Utah’s two senators — Mike Lee and Mitt Romney — support the border wall, but they disagreed with Trump’s decision in 2019 to use the military money in the first place. At that time, the Trump team pulled money from the antenna repair facility and a control center at the Utah Test and Training Range. Romney said the move undermined military readiness, while Lee argued it was time for Congress to limit the National Emergencies Act, which Trump used to justify shifting the money.

Neither Lee nor Romney responded Friday to a request for comment.

The Defense Department previously restored the $28 million for the control center at the Test and Training Range in April 2020.

When he came into office, President Joe Biden stopped the redirection of funds toward the border wall and much of the construction. Friday’s decision comes after the Defense Department and Homeland Security developed detailed plans on a project-by-project basis, which includes military installations in 11 states, three U.S. territories and 16 countries.

The White House also called on Congress to stop funding border wall expansion and said it would use money provided for the border wall on environmental projects, such as drainage and soil erosion.