WASHINGTON — The Pentagon plans to divert funds from military construction projects in nearly half the 50 states, three territories and 19 countries to the southwestern border wall as part of President Trump’s efforts to bypass Congress and redirect spending to his signature campaign promise.
Nearly every facet of military life, from a canceled dining center in Puerto Rico to a small arms firing range in Tulsa, Okla., to an elementary school in Wiesbaden, Germany, will be affected by the transfer of $3.6 billion in congressionally appropriated funds detailed by the Defense Department on Wednesday.
The cuts involve projects such as rifle ranges, aircraft simulators, hangars, port repairs and a cyberoperations center in Virginia, with the biggest impact in Puerto Rico, Guam, New York and New Mexico. In the case of Puerto Rico, the Defense Department plans to divert funds from projects targeted after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017.
The $3.6 billion, taken from 127 projects across the globe, will go toward 11 projects in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, which include both new construction and some fencing replacement. The longest stretch of new pedestrian fencing — about 52 miles — is scheduled for Laredo, Tex., along the Rio Grande.
Reacting to the Pentagon’s announcement, Democrats assailed what they said was an assault on military readiness and lawmakers from both parties voiced discomfort with what they called an attempt by the White House to subvert their constitutional mandate to set government spending.
Members of Congress began disclosing details about the projects targeted for cuts after Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary, and his department notified them about what projects in their district or state would be affected. The Pentagon later released a full list, with a senior Defense Department official insisting that the military was simply carrying out a lawful order from the president to address a national security emergency at the border.
The phone calls and formal letters from Mr. Esper were the first time that members of Congress had been notified about which specific projects would have their funding reallocated. Lawmakers had pressed both White House officials and the Defense Department to release details of the affected projects since February, when Mr. Trump declared a national emergency at the southwestern border and made the funds available under the National Emergencies Act of 1976.
The Trump administration had promised to notify lawmakers about the projects before both the Senate and the House voted to repeal Mr. Trump’s national emergency declaration and the president vetoed the legislation, which he described as “dangerous,” “reckless” and a “vote against reality.”
Mr. Trump told reporters on Wednesday that Mr. Esper had “very good conversations with various members of Congress.”
“He feels it’s a national security problem,” Mr. Trump added. “I do, too.”
In a joint statement, two Utah Republicans, Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, agreed that border protections needed to be strengthened, but said that Congress had ceded power to the executive branch and needed to pass legislation defending its ability to set spending.
“Funding the border wall is an important priority, and the executive branch should use the appropriate channels in Congress, rather than divert already appropriated funding away from military construction projects and therefore undermining military readiness,” Mr. Romney said.
Democrats were more scathing in their objections. A group from the Senate Appropriations Committee, in its own joint statement, recalled that “the president promised Mexico would pay for his wall, not the military and their families.”
“This is a subversion of the will of the American people and their representatives,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader. “It is an attack on our military and its effectiveness to keep Americans safe.”
The timing of the cuts is likely to intensify the looming debate over how to fund the government and set defense policy, and the Democratic majority in the House and the Republican majority in the Senate will most likely be at odds over whether to replace the funds diverted to the border.
Privately, several Pentagon officials acknowledged that their position was tenuous, since Congress would ultimately have to agree to replace the funds. If Congress does not agree to do that, the projects will be effectively canceled.