New Mexico military facilities regain $95 million from border wall settlement



(The Center Square) – Military facilities in New Mexico have regained a total of $95 million with the settlement of lawsuits brought by a coalition of 18 states over the diversion of funds by the Trump administration to construct a wall along the Southwestern border. New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez joined California Attorney General Rob Bonta in announcing the settlement on July 17.

In the 64-page settlement, the Biden Administration agrees to stop border barrier construction using challenged funds; restore funding to military construction projects; remove construction materials; install small and large wildlife passages; open stormwater gates full time; disallow additional barrier construction in specified gaps in Arizona and New Mexico; as well as mitigate impacts of the border barrier including those of road construction, lighting and water wells through dozens of actions formulated to reduce or eliminate the “impacts” of the construction of the wall.

Holloman Air Force Base will receive $55 million in settlement, appropriated from its MQ-9 FTU Ops facility project which was estimated to cost between $25 million and $100 million. The project to construct an MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) Operations Facility to house three MQ-9 Attack Squadrons, to include administrative space, academic space, fixed ground control stations, maintenance functions, training simulators, server rooms, communication equipment rooms, and secure mission support spaces, was abandoned when funds were deferred. Whether this ruling would bring the project back on stream is left to be seen.

White Sands Missile Range will receive $40 million appropriated from its Information Systems and Communications Center project, which will be completed in December this year at an estimated cost of $70.6 million, a release by the US Army stated. That project secured funding from the Military Construction Army program and replaces a facility built in 1962.

White Sands “will be in a better position to support the cross functional team priorities out of Army Futures Command and having a modern facility with state of the art equipment will greatly improve our missions support capabilities,” John Medina, Chief, Transmission Services Division with the Range Operations Directorate said.

Other terms of the coalition settlement require the Department of Homeland Security to provide $1.1 million to fund programs that monitor several federally endangered species, including the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, Sonoran Desert Pronghorn, Mexican Gray Wolf, ocelot, and jaguar.

On January 20, 2021, newly elected President Joe Biden issued a proclamation terminating the declaration of emergency that allowed for the border wall construction, stating “It shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall. I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall.”

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