Pentagon defends use of active-duty troops to support border securityBy Andrew Howard
cronkitenews.azpbs.org WASHINGTON – Pentagon officials told House lawmakers Tuesday that there’s nothing unusual about the 2,300 active-duty troops at the Mexican border, calling it in line with similar deployments under previous administrations. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood and Vice Adm. Michael Gilday opened their testimony to the House Armed Services Committee by saying the Defense Department has “a long history of supporting efforts to secure U.S. borders,” beginning in the early 1990s. “We believe our military support enables CBP (Customs and Border Protection) to do their duties at ports of entry,” Gilday testified. But most of the earlier deployments cited in their testimony involved National Guard troops, and Democrats on the committee called it “highly unusual” for active-duty soldiers to be on the border providing support. “There’s really not much evidence that right at the moment it is a crisis that would call for the, if not unprecedented, then highly unusual step of sending active-duty troops to the border,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, the chairman of the committee.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, argued there would be no need to deploy troops if Homeland Security was adequately funded. “What’s it going to take for us to not have to continue this pattern?” he said. “We’re going to have to adequately fund the Department of Homeland Security instead of continually reaching into DoD to subsidize that department.” Rogers added that “we continue to act stupid in Congress,” fighting the president over $5.7 billion in border wall funding that led to a partial government shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion. The shutdown ended Friday with passage of a short-term budget extension and an agreement by House and Senate leaders to negotiate on border wall funding. Trump has said that if he does not get the funding he wants, he could close the government again in three weeks or declare a national emergency and draw wall funds from other agencies – possibly the Pentagon. Many committee Democrats asked about that possibility, but Rood would only say there has been “prudent planning” on the issue. He would not elaborate on the cost or the operations of the wall, but said that if Trump declared an emergency and directed the Pentagon to act, it would build the wall “if we judged it to be a lawful order.” “And I assume it would be,” he said.
More from Cronkite NewsEstrada says border wall alone is not the best way to stem drug trafficking (January 29, 2019) For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org. This story originally appeared on Cronkite News and is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
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