Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan wants President Trump to know that he stands ready and willing to send more troops to the southern border between the United States and Mexico.
President Trump previously called for a military presence at the border when a migrant caravan of 20,000 members loomed in Mexico. The troops constructed temporary defensive barriers and served as a deterrence.
From the Washington Examiner:
Trump said after touring a section of recently upgraded border fencing in Calexico, Calif., last week, “We’re going to bring up some more military” to deal with what he said were more than 70,000 illegal migrants rushing the border.
Shanahan said the Pentagon has had conversations with the Department of Homeland Security but has yet to receive a formal request.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’ll provide more support to the border,” he said in response to a reporter’s question as he prepared to meet with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “Our support is very elastic, and given the deterioration there at the border, you would expect that we would provide more support.” Shanahan said he anticipates the support will be similar to what the military has already provided with several thousand troops, barrier construction, transport, and surveillance.
Shanahan said he was meeting with a planning team within his department and that would assess what areas along the border would need the increased security.
“It will follow up with where are we on barrier construction, where do we stand on troops deployed, and then in the areas we anticipate, what type of preliminary plans should we be doing prior to receiving a request for assistance,” the acting defense secretary said.
Democrats have mostly been against any deployments of troops to the southern border and, according to the Washington Examiner, used congressional testimony from General Robert Neller to argue the border missions decrease military readiness.
“To say that going to the border was degrading our readiness is not an accurate statement,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week.
Neller’s March 18 memo listed eight categories of unfunded and unexpected expenses. Hurricane recovery was at the top of the list, but a number of expenses were included, such as the raise for civilian employees, which was not in the budget.
“We have a shortfall of just under $300 million, of which the border mission is less than 2 percent,” Neller said. “So my intent was to just simply lay out for my boss what these were and ask for support in trying to figure out how we might fund them.”
Pressed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Neller conceded some Marines, who are not doing the jobs they would normally do, could see a small degradation in their unit readiness, but he said it depended on the unit.
“Some of the units have gone down there and they’ve done tasks that are more in line with their core mission. Like engineer units or MP units. Aviation units that were assigned to that early on have actually improved their readiness because they are able to fly certain profiles and things,” he testified.
Neller’s boss, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, clarified the small cost to Marines operations when they are deployed to the border does not affect its readiness.
“The main stress that we were dealing with at the time, senator, was the hurricane, which was imposing the greatest cost on the Marine Corps,” Spencer said at the committee, via the Washington Examiner. “Five hundred men for a month at the southern border is $1.25 million. In my mind, is that affecting my readiness stress? No, it’s not.”
ABC News reports that there are currently 3,900 active duty forces and 2,100 National Guardsmen serving alongside the Customs and Border Protection.