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Pentagon sends 1,000 more troops to southern border

U.S. troops at the southern border. (KSWB-TV/TNS/Released)
February 25, 2019

More U.S. troops are headed to the southern border.

The Pentagon is sending an additional 1,000 troops to the border in an effort to strengthen border security through a combination of applying concertina wire, and providing detection and monitoring, a senior defense official told The Hill on Friday.

“Our numbers right now total are about 5,000. They’ll increase to about 6,000 by March 1,” the official said.

Approximately 5,000 troops have remained on the border since first ordered there ahead of the Central American migrant caravans this past October. The mission has since been extended twice.

“That mission has evolved,” the official said. “We are now transitioning to supporting [areas] between the ports of entry. We’re laying down another 140 miles of concertina wire — [we’re] about 30 percent done with that — as well as providing a ground-based detection and monitoring mission in support of [Customs and Border Protection].”

“We are not just sending people down there unless there’s a valid requirement and then we try to match, as best we can, resources to the requirement with as much specificity as possible. And if we don’t need those people then we’ll move them somewhere else,” the official added.

In a news release last month, the Pentagon said Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan approved a Department of Homeland Security request to keep troops on the southern border until Sept. 30, 2019.

The release noted that the border support mission was shifting away from port of entry support, to instead providing surveillance, detection and concertina wire application.

The latest deployment comes as President Donald Trump is preparing to direct $6 billion from the Pentagon budget to fund the construction of the southern border wall, per his national emergency declaration signed earlier this month.

The order will draw some $3.6 billion from the Pentagon’s military construction funds, and pull some $2.5 billion from military counternarcotics programs, as well as $600 million from an asset forfeiture program in the Treasury Department.

The order came after Congress failed to pass a funding bill that included the $5.7 billion Trump had asked for in order to secure the southern border. Instead, Congress passed a bill providing just $1.375 billion for border security, which permitted fencing for 55 miles.

Although it has been customary for the Pentagon to request approval from Congress on reallocating DOD funding, it may not do so this time.

“It has been the practice of the Department of Defense to request approval and it’s not required by law,” the defense official told the Hill.