Military Preparation

US Navy via AP

The USS Truxtun heads out of its berth at Naval Station Norfolk ahead of Hurricane Dorian last week. A funding shift initiated by the president and approved, also last week, by the secretary of defense would cut money for a ship maintenance facility in Norfolk, among other Virginia impacts.

Virginia would lose $77 million under President Trump’s plan to pull border wall funding from military coffers.

Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine are protesting that move, and rightly so.

President Obama wasn’t the first to use executive privileges to end-run a Congress that wouldn’t do his bidding, but he made broad and powerful use of the practice. So it’s not surprising that his successor would do the same.

President Trump declared a “national emergency” and exercised his authority as commander in chief. His defense secretary approved the plan to divert a total of at least $6.1 billion toward building 295 miles of wall along the border with Mexico.

Backers of the border wall say that it’s necessary for national security, too, on the premise that unchecked illegal immigration is dangerous for the country. It’s not our purpose to dive into that debate at the moment, but rather to look at the effects on Virginia of the Trump funding shift.

The two Virginia senators report the following cuts in planned construction projects:

» $10 million from a cyber operations facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

» More than $26 million from a Navy ships maintenance facility in Portsmouth.

» $18.5 million from a project to replace a hazardous materials warehouse in Norfolk.

» $22.5 million from a similar hazardous-materials warehouse project in Portsmouth.

Taking money from cyber operations and ships maintenance facilities strikes us as especially problematic.

Cyber security is a critical necessity in modern times. It is an area in which the United States might be vulnerable to new weaponry and hacking practices that could cause widespread dangers, dislocating our transportation systems, our energy grid, our economic networks and even our ability to defend ourselves.

Meanwhile, ships maintenance is a core requirement of a vigorous Navy capable of responding to international threats. And properly dealing with hazardous materials fulfills a commitment to protect the health of the men and women who work with such materials, the health of the civilians who live nearby in Virginia’s cities and the health of Virginia’s environment.

The key concern over these cuts is how severe the effects will be on national security. That is, after all, the mission of the military: to defend and protect the United States.

But not to be overlooked is the economic effect on Virginia. Loss of funding for construction projects will mean loss of jobs for civilian contractors who otherwise would assist in those projects. That’s not an insignificant consideration.

Virginia is prepared to give its share of sacrifices for a good cause. The commonwealth has done so before and survived, and will do so again if necessary.

Virginians want to be assured, however, that the sacrifices are truly necessary and are not merely motivated by a president’s egotistical determination to win an argument over a wall.

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