More troops bound for bor­der

Cost of se­cu­rity ef­fort is $235M and climb­ing

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Van­den Brook

WASH­ING­TON – The Pen­tagon an­nounced plans Tues­day to send thou­sands of ad­di­tional troops to the south­ern bor­der to bol­ster se­cu­rity.

The mil­i­tary es­ti­mated that it has spent at least $235 mil­lion since Octo- ber 2017 de­ploy­ing ac­tive-duty and Na­tional Guard troops to string con­certina wire, pro­vide trans­porta­tion for bor­der agents and con­duct sur­veil­lance along the bor­der.

Act­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Pa­trick Shana­han said Tues­day that the new de­ploy­ment would en­tail “sev­eral thou­sand. I’ll leave it at that num­ber.”

“We are cur­rently sourc­ing the units in­volved, and there will be an in­crease of a few thou­sand troops,” Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said in a state­ment. “We will pro­vide more clar­ity on the num­bers when we have it.”

About 2,300 ac­tive-duty troops and nearly as many Na­tional Guard sol­diers are on the south­ern bor­der.

About $132 mil­lion will be spent through the end of Jan­uary on the ac­tive-duty troops who were or­dered there in Oc­to­ber, ac­cord­ing to Pen­tagon es­ti­mates. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump di­rected more forces to the bor­der to

re­spond to car­a­vans of mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica.

The cost of Na­tional Guard troops, sta­tioned at the bor­der through the fis­cal year that ended in Septem­ber, was

$103 mil­lion, Navy Capt. Bill Speaks, a Pen­tagon spokesman, said Tues­day. For fis­cal year 2019, the Pen­tagon ex­pects to spend $308 mil­lion on de­ploy­ing Na­tional Guard troops.

At a hear­ing on Capi­tol Hill Tues­day, the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee fo­cused on the cost and need for troops at bor­der, most es­pe­cially ac­tive-duty forces.

That hear­ing fol­lowed the tem­po­rary res­o­lu­tion of the 35-day gov­ern­ment shut­down – the long­est in U.S. his­tory – over $5.7 bil­lion in fund­ing that Trump de­mands for bor­der bar­ri­ers. Trump ac­cepted a deal to re­open the gov­ern­ment through Feb. 15.

Trump has mused about declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency, which would al­low him to tap funds and use troops to build the wall. The Pen­tagon con­firmed that it has been pre­par­ing plans to de­sign and build the wall through the Army Corps of Engi­neers.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the new chair­man of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said the dec­la­ra­tion of an emer­gency was not jus­ti­fied by the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion at the bor­der. Il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings have plum­meted since 2006 be­cause of in­creased man­power at agen­cies such as the Coast Guard, the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Bor­der Pa­trol.

“There re­ally isn’t that much ev­i­dence of a cri­sis,” Smith said. He has said an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion by Trump would prompt a law­suit.

Texas Rep. Mac Thorn­berry, the high­est rank­ing Repub­li­can on the com­mit­tee, noted that pres­i­dents dat­ing to the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion in the

1990s have called on the Pen­tagon to help se­cure the bor­der.

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