Almost three years ago, President Trump ordered the Pentagon to provide military support to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the U.S. southern border with Mexico. In addition to providing Defense Department funds to build the border wall, the Pentagon mobilized and deployed more than 5,000 active duty, reserve, and National Guard troops as well.
The move was highly controversial at the time, with partisan critics and activists bemoaning the “militarization” of the border. Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon’s Inspector General (IG) was tasked with conducting a review of Trump’s military border support.
The Defense Department’s IG confirmed in its report that the Pentagon’s mobilization of thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border is fully legal. Military Times (MT) noted that: “In providing aviation support, installing concertina wire and staffing mobile surveillance sites, the IG found, the troops are fully compliant with federal law and DoD policy.”
“Additionally, we determined that DoD title 10 personnel had limited contact with civilians or migrants and contact that did occur was acceptable under DoD policy,” noted the IG report, which surveyed troops from October 2018 to December 2019.
But as the funds have been disbursed, and the wall has been built the troops are drawing down.
As MT reported separately:
The drop in numbers of troops at the border has coincided with what is expected to be the end of the Pentagon’s funding contributions to building the border wall.
The Defense Department in February shifted $3.8 bill from its acquisitions budget, clarifying that the more than $10 billion it chipped in for border barriers through 2019 and 2020 should be enough, along with Homeland Security Department funding, to complete the originally planned 722 miles of fencing.
MT added: “So far, the Army Corps of Engineers has awarded roughly $9 billion in contracts to build more than 380 miles of wall in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.”
It also noted that troops “deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border started to draw down in the second half of 2020, and that trend is expected to continue for 2021.” The number is now about a third less than initially with only 3,600 National Guard and reserve troops now stationed at the border.
Bob Salesses, the deputy assistant defense secretary for homeland defense integration, said, according to Military Times, “I don’t have anything specific, but it’s clear that we’ll be meeting the requirements that have been identified by the president to accelerate and build the border barrier as quickly and effectively as possible.”
As the wall keeps going up, and U.S. troops along the border keep coming down, we see another Trump promise kept, less illegal entry, more security, and border crises averted.