Workers break ground on new border wall construction about 20 miles west of Santa Teresa, New Mexico, Aug. 23, 2019.
Workers break ground on new border wall construction about 20 miles west of Santa Teresa, New Mexico, Aug. 23, 2019.

PENTAGON - U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall is expanding.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed Wednesday that he recently approved another 32 kilometers (20 miles) of barriers for the United States' southern border with Mexico.

Answering a question from VOA in the first on-camera press briefing at the Pentagon by a secretary of defense and the chairman in exactly one year, Esper said the Army Corps of Engineers had "successfully negotiated lower prices than expected, which freed up money to do more miles."

"It's as simple as that," he added.

To date, nearly 250 kilometers of the barrier wall have been funded by shifting military funds originally marked for other purposes.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court in July allowed the administration to start using disputed Pentagon funds to construct fencing along the border.

The justices lifted a lower court freeze that was designed to block $2.5 billion in spending while lawsuits by the Sierra Club and another advocacy group went forward. Those cases may still go trial.

The Pentagon had previously approved the reprogramming of funds into its counter-drug account, which is authorized to spend money on border barrier construction in order to block potential drug smuggling corridors.

In May, Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan confirmed the transferred Pentagon funds included money the Pentagon was saving for training Afghanistan security forces. At the time, he added he would not reprogram any more money for the border wall.

A defense official told VOA Tuesday that in addition to the Afghan training money, funds were also reprogramed to the border wall from lower-than-negotiated contract savings for air launch cruise missiles and Predator Hellfire missiles, from personnel and recruiting monies available due to a reduction of expected troop numbers, and from funds set aside for upgrades to the E-3 aircraft and Minuteman III that have been delayed.