The U.S. military will not be leaving the country’s southern border with Mexico until the border is secure, according to the acting defense secretary.
“We’re not going to leave until the border is secure,” Patrick Shanahan told a crowd in a Texas border city on Saturday. “This isn’t about identifying a problem. It’s about fixing a problem more quickly.”
Troops have been deployed to the southern border for seven months, since October 2018, and are expected to be there through this September.
Shanahan has recently pointed out that the troops will not be there “indefinitely,” but that the mission there will likely keep troops at the southern border for a few years.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford recently told a Senate committee, “Although the commitment to the border hasn’t impacted preparedness for other missions at this point, what we want to do is get into a more predictable mode of the requirements the Department of Homeland Security has and do better at integrating across the government.”
Approximately 4,400 U.S. service members are deployed to the southern border, a combination of duty troops and National Guardsmen.
The troops are strictly prohibited from performing law enforcement duties, but they are at the border helping build barriers and provide services to support Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, which is building the border wall.
Last week, the Pentagon reallocated $1.5 billion in funds for 80 miles of border wall.
“Today, I authorized the transfer of $1.5 billion toward the construction of more than 80 miles of border barrier,” Shanahan said on Friday. “The funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes, and revised requirements, and therefore will have minimal impact on force readiness.”
The funds were pulled from the Afghan Security Forces Fund, Air Force programs, coalition support funding, a chemical weapons project and military retirement system savings.
The approval came nearly two months after Shanahan’s first funding reallocation approval, which diverted $1 billion in defense funds for 60 miles of border wall construction around Yuma, Ariz. and El Paso, Texas.
Another $3.6 billion is anticipated to be pulled from various military construction projects to add to the border wall construction, but details of that plan are not yet known.
In March, the Pentagon identified $12.8 billion in 400 funded military construction projects that could potentially be used for the southern border wall.
Shanahan has said the Defense Department is “fully engaged” in efforts to solve the border crisis, adding that more than 4,000 troops and 19 military aircraft are deployed in support of the southern border mission.