The Connecticut National Guard is performing potentially life-saving service to residents as the peak of the coronavirus pandemic approaches.
Members helped erect field hospital tents at Danbury Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Hartford; this week they are converting space at state universities into medical care for the sick. At least two members have tested positive for the virus, so far.
With this remarkable and vital work going on, the Trump administration wants to divert millions from the National Guard budget to build more wall along the Southern border with Mexico.
We have always thought that the mission to build a physical wall was a bad idea, for moral, economic and practical reasons. But now with the desperate fight against the novel coronavirus in our state and around the country, the timing is particularly odious.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is right to stand up for state residents and challenge the diversion of National Guard funds. On Tuesday, Tong joined attorney generals from seven other states to file action to permanently block the federal government from siphoning a total of $3.8 billion from defense budgets for the wall.
National Guard units would otherwise lose $790 million to purchase equipment needed to respond to emergencies and natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
“The Connecticut National Guard needs every cent of its budget right now to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and our state’s economy cannot afford to lose any more revenue. The President has no legal right to grab lawfully appropriated taxpayer dollars,” Tong said. “The law was clear before today’s crisis, but it is imperative now that we move immediately to protect public health, our state economy, and national security.”
The motion follows a March 3 lawsuit by a coalition of 19 states challenging the money shuffle.
For Connecticut, the effect of redirecting defense funds goes beyond the National Guard. Four fighter plane engines made by Pratt & Whitney, for a total of $80 million, would be unfunded. This would translate to a $195 million reduction in business sales and ripple effects including a $5.5 million loss of state and local tax revenues, Tong said. We can ill afford this.
After Gov. Ned Lamont activated the Connecticut National Guard as part of the COVID-19 emergency response, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security promised full reimbursement for the costs. But with one arm of government giving while another is taking away, a court injunction against the taking becomes necessary.
Residents of Connecticut are grateful for the rapid response of the state’s National Guard. This week units are erecting a third field hospital, at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, as well as climate-controlled tents at hospitals for veterans in West Haven and Newington, and will convert spaces to accommodate 300 hospital beds each at Webster Arena in Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven and Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
Their work is invaluable in this uncertain time and much more important than an ineffective wall.