(CNN) — Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has authorized the use of $3.6 billion in military construction funds for 11 wall projects on the southern border with Mexico, according to defense officials and a letter from Esper to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has been obtained by CNN.
In his letter, Esper told Congress he has “determined that 11 military construction projects along the international border with Mexico, with an estimated total cost of $3.6 billion, are necessary to support the use of the armed forces in connection with the national emergency.”
The announcement fulfills a promise made by President Donald Trump in February to tap military construction funds to build his border wall. The move was slammed by Congress when it was first announced and only recently completed a Pentagon legal review.
Defense Department officials say 127 military construction projects are being put on hold in order to use the $3.6 billion to fund building 175 miles of southern border wall.
Construction is expected to begin in about 135 days according to Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller Elaine McCusker.
According to chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, half the money is coming from deferred projects overseas, and the other half were planned for projects in the US.
Though it’s unclear which military construction would be put on hold, the move could put at risk projects such as command and control, drone, cyber and training facilities in the US and overseas.
White House officials have held talks in the last weeks to begin planning for the move, two administration officials said, which would shift funds from the Department of Defense’s military construction budget to fund the border wall.
The move would rely on Trump’s February emergency declaration, which has faced stiff legal challenges.
Lt. Gen. Andrew W. Poppas, director of operations, J-3, Joint Staff, says “we do” expect to be able to reduce some of the troops assigned to the border mission with the construction of these barriers but would not say by how much.
This story is breaking and will be updated.