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Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, left, and Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally are separated by plexiglass as they participate in a debate, Oct. 6, 2020 in Phoenix. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool) Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, left, and Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally are separated by plexiglass as they participate in a debate, Oct. 6, 2020 in Phoenix. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)

Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, left, and Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally are separated by plexiglass as they participate in a debate, Oct. 6, 2020 in Phoenix. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde October 14, 2020

Kelly’s claim that McSally voted to take money from Arizona military base needs context

If Your Time is short

  • McSally’s votes in 2019 allowed a national emergency declared by President Donald Trump to continue. 

  • The resolutions she voted on did not explicitly ask whether to divert money from Fort Huachuca to construction of a border wall; but allowing Trump’s declaration to persist did have that effect. 

  • Funding for the Arizona project was deferred, not scrapped entirely.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly told Arizonans that while border security is important for their state, his opponent was going about it the wrong way.

Seeking to unseat Republican Sen. Martha McSally, Kelly said that McSally supports a border wall that is too costly and a "17th century solution" for border security. The federal government should invest in technology and more border patrol agents — and not take money away from a military base in Arizona, he said.

"Senator McSally voted to take away money from Fort Huachuca to pay for the border wall," Kelly said during a debate with McSally in Phoenix Oct. 6.

Is that true? McSally’s votes in 2019 allowed a national emergency declared by President Donald Trump to continue. The resolutions she voted on did not explicitly ask whether to divert money from Fort Huachuca to construction of a border wall; but allowing Trump’s declaration to persist did have that effect. Funding for the Arizona project was deferred, not scrapped entirely.

Background on Trump’s national emergency declaration

Citing an "invasion" crisis, Trump in February 2019 declared a national emergency at the southwest border, a move that led his administration to redirect funds from planned Defense Department projects to construction at the border. "Because of the gravity of the current emergency situation, it is necessary for the Armed Forces to provide additional support to address the crisis," Trump’s declaration said.

Trump’s declaration came after he was unable to get money from Congress to pay for his promised border wall. Many immigration experts and lawmakers questioned the existence of the crisis Trump cited..

In September 2019, the Defense Department released the list of projects it would delay to provide $3.6 billion for border barriers. The list included a $30 million project for an equipment storage building at Fort Huachuca, an Army installation in Arizona.

The Defense Department said at the time that the projects were being deferred, not canceled, and that the $3.6 billion came from "unobligated" funds, meaning that the money for the military projects had not yet been committed in contracts. A contract for the Arizona project was expected to be awarded May 2020. Congress would need to backfill the money being diverted, the Defense Department said.

McSally’s 2019 votes

Kelly’s campaign pointed to three votes McSally cast in 2019 supporting Trump’s declaration.

McSally in March voted against a resolution seeking to end Trump’s national emergency declaration. In September, she voted against another similar resolution. In October, McSally voted against overriding a Trump veto of a resolution to end his declaration.

McSally’s September and October votes were cast after the Defense Department publicly released the list of projects that would be sidelined, including the one at Fort Huachuca.

Featured Fact-check

The resolutions that McSally voted against were specific to Trump’s declaration and did not include a direct reference to the delayed Defense Department projects. However, the deferral of the projects was directly tied to Trump’s declaration.

McSally’s comments on Fort Huachuca

McSally in March 2019 sent a letter to the acting defense secretary, asking that military construction projects in Arizona not be delayed due to shifts in funding for the border projects.

"While I strongly agree we must be tough on border security to protect Americans from drugs and criminals flowing across our southern border, we cannot forsake one duty for another," McSally wrote.

McSally said that Arizona military construction funding "authorized and appropriated in recent years will enable the service members working in critical missions to have a safe, efficient, and effective working environment. Without funding for these projects on schedule and on budget, we risk disruption or degradation of several important military missions."

In September 2019, after the Defense Department included the Fort Huachuca project in its deferred list, McSally said that funding for the Arizona project was already delayed anyway, "because of ongoing environmental cleanup that is taking longer than expected."

"The fact of the matter is that had the Army completed this sooner, the project would not have been delayed and would not have even been up for discussion," McSally said Sept. 4, 2019. McSally said she got a commitment from the Army that the project would be completed "in a timely manner."

McSally’s campaign told PolitiFact that the Army in April 2020 notified her that the Arizona project site had been cleared and that a contract would be awarded at the end of December 2020. Her campaign said the Pentagon had "reshuffled money around to backfill the money."

The Arizona Republic in April reported that the Trump administration restored money for the Arizona project by taking money from the Pentagon’s budget for operations in Europe and the Middle East. "The money maneuvers are necessary as part of the military budget is redirected to pay for construction of President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall," said the Arizona Republic article.

Our ruling

Kelly said McSally "voted to take away money from Fort Huachuca to pay for the border wall."

This needs context. McSally voted against resolutions that sought to end Trump’s national emergency declaration. Trump’s declaration paved the way for the Defense Department to identify military projects that would be deferred — including a $30 million project at Fort Huachuca — in order to free up money for construction of barriers at the southwest border.

McSally in early 2019 asked the Defense Department to not delay funding for Arizona projects in order to pay for the border barriers. Later that year, she said the Fort Huachuca project was delayed anyway due to environmental cleanup issues at the site.

Kelly’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

Our Sources

C-SPAN, Arizona U.S. Senate debate, Oct. 6, 2020

Email interview, Martha McSally’s campaign press office, Oct. 13, 2020

Email interview, Mark Kelly’s campaign press office, Oct. 13, 2020

WhiteHouse.gov, Presidential Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States, Feb. 15, 2019

Sen. Martha McSally’s senate website, McSally Fights to Protect Arizona Military Construction Projects, letter to Defense acting secretary, March 4, 2019; McSally Statement on Department of Defense Announcement, Sept. 4, 2019; McSally Announces Project at Fort Huachuca Will Proceed with Full Funding, April 30, 2020

Arizona Republic, Pentagon restores the Fort Huachuca funding it cut for border wall construction, April 30, 2020

Arizona Republic, Fort Huachuca project delayed for Trump's border efforts, Sept. 4, 2019

Defense.gov, DOD Briefing on Use of 2808 MILCON Funds for Construction of the Border Wall, Sept. 3, 2019

Defense.gov, Memo from Mark Esper — Subject: Military Construction Necessary to Support the Use of the Armed Forces in Addressing the National Emergency at the Southern Border, Sept. 3, 2019

Congress.gov, H.J.Res.46 - Relating to a national emergency declared by the President on February 15, 2019., introduced Feb. 22, 2019

Senate.gov, Question: On the Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 46), March 14, 2019

Congress.gov, S.J.Res.54 - A joint resolution relating to a national emergency declared by the President on February 15, 2019., introduced Sept. 10, 2019

Senate.gov, Question: On the Joint Resolution (S.J. Res. 54), Sept. 25, 2019

Senate.gov, Question: On Overriding the Veto (Shall the Joint Resolution S.J. Res. 54 pass, the Objections of the President of the United States to the contrary notwithstanding?), Oct. 17, 2019

PolitiFact, Democrats target Republicans, Donald Trump on military money used for wall: A rundown of projects, Sept. 10, 2019

PolitiFact, Trump rests national emergency declaration on border ‘invasion.’ Here are the facts, Feb. 15, 2019

PolitiFact, Trump's real border crisis is the overwhelmed asylum system, experts say, Jan. 9, 2019

The New York Times, Senate Fails to Override Trump’s Veto, Keeping Border Emergency in Place, Oct. 17, 2019

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Kelly’s claim that McSally voted to take money from Arizona military base needs context

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