Congressmen were tasked with overseeing US massive military grilled Pentagon officials today (January 29) on one of Donald Trump's most controversial orders – sending troops to the border with Mexico to handle a caravan of Central American immigrants.
Bipartisan House Armed Services Committee, which includes many of the military military veterans and monitors an annual defense budget of $ 700 billion, examined the cost of the order and its impact on other military operations during a three-hour hearing. The event raised questions about Trump's motivation to declare a "national emergency" on the border that he threatened to do if he were not satisfied with the outcome of ongoing border security negotiations.
Trump's wall plans have been partially criticized because the number of people arrested at the southern border is historically low, and most of the substances coming from the south travel through the entrance gates, not the areas where a wall to be built. Today, Pentagon officials indicated that they do not regard the situation at the border as a threat to US security.
For example, US troops said they did not operate in an emergency. "In view of the threat description that referred to this order," the service members on the border have been given the added bonus of the active tents when deployed to an area near hostile fire or my explosions, Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat, asked. "No, sir," replied Deputy Admiral Michael Gilday, Operations Director of the Joint Staff, senior Pentagon Council advising the White House.
Paul Mitchell, a Republican in Michigan, asked what the military is doing at the border that could not be dealt with by the Department of Homeland Security if they had the funding for it.
Nothing was the short answer. "None of the options we provide are combat skills," Gilday said. "It's not a war zone along the border."
Has the Pentagon's annual review of the 2018 "National Defense Strategy" used to allocate resources based on security threats, include the word "southern border" or the word "caravan?" Asked Bill Keating, Massachusetts Democrat. No, Pentagon officials said.
Trump White House ordered the military to send over 5,000 active military personnel to the US southern border last October, before the mid-term election, when an asylum seeker's caravan was injured on foot through Mexico. Doubled "Operation Faithful Patriot", the troops ran miles of concertina fences on the Arizona and Texas borders, although many of the immigrants are led to a legal entry gate in California.
More than 2,000 troops are still on the US southern border, Pentagon officials said today as well as over 2,000 National Guard troops. They provide security for CBP officials, operate surveillance cameras and extend more wires. Attendant Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters today that "several thousand" more troops were shipped "soon" after a DHS request.
The cost of the active customs forces could amount to over $ 130 million by the end of this month, Pentagon officials said, while the cost of National Guard troops is estimated to be about $ 550 million through the financial year 2019 ending in September.
The military is preparing in the event that Trump declares a national emergency, said John Rood, the Pentagon's Under Secretary of Defense. "We have pre-planned to understand the law and obligations," the military may have, he said, but he refused to estimate what it could cost, or discuss any details. "We haven't made any decisions," he said.
The response of Pentagon officials during the hearing suggests that they do not believe an emergency declaration is justified. On the question of which of the military's designated missions on the border is the most urgent, whether to stop human trafficking, the flow of illegal drugs or border crossers, Gilday chose not, but admitted that overall enforcement operations have not been at the top of the military list.
Globally, the Trump administration has prioritized China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, he said, and the military has followed suit.
"We just can't do everything," Gilday added.