The Pentagon said Sunday it has sent 3,750 more active-duty troops to the border, moving to re-bolster forces as new caravans make their way north through Mexico.
The new troops will lay 150 more miles of razor wire to try to make it tougher to climb over existing border fencing, and will also bring mobile surveillance capabilities to assist the Border Patrol in spotting illegal crossers.
The Pentagon said the new troops will bring the total active-duty deployment to 4,350.
“Additional units are being deployed for 90 days, and we will continue to evaluate the force composition required to meet the mission to protect and secure the southern border,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
In addition to the active-duty troops, there are still about 2,000 National Guard troops performing maintenance, clerical assistance and surveillance tasks to assist Customs and Border Protection agents and officers.
The past two administrations also deployed troops to the border, though President Trump’s move has drawn more pushback than either President George W. Bush or President Barack Obama.
Part of that pushback is over the use of active-duty troops, with congressional Democrats saying they are being taken away from other important duties by being sent to the border.
Democrats also complained last week that they’d been kept in the dark about the latest deployment, which they said the Pentagon had briefed others on, but had withheld from Congress even though there was a hearing called last week to examine the military’s border role.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said he was “deeply troubled” by that, and said he and his colleagues had specifically asked about future plans.
“They never mentioned it, despite the fact that the secretary of defense was revealing an increase in personnel that same day. This was at best an error in judgment, and at worst flat-out dishonesty,” Mr. Smith said in a letter lodging his objections.
He said he has since spoken with acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.
While Sunday’s announcement doesn’t mention border fencing specifically, Mr. Trump is considering tapping the Pentagon to carry out his wall-building plans, should he fail to win the money and authority from Congress.
Mr. Trump says he is eyeing emergency powers which would let him order the military to build fencing to stop drug smuggling.
The president took to Twitter Sunday to renew his push.
“With Caravans marching through Mexico and toward our Country, Republicans must be prepared to do whatever is necessary for STRONG Border Security. Dems do nothing. If there is no Wall, there is no Security. Human Trafficking, Drugs and Criminals of all dimensions — KEEP OUT!” the president wrote.
Wall-building would likely fall to the Army Corps of Engineers, which has been involved in previous rounds of border fence construction as well.
The troops Mr. Trump ordered deployed last year, to counter previous caravans, have laid some 70 miles of razor wire.
That number would more than triple under the new deployment.
And Navy Vice Admiral Michael Gilday told last week’s Armed Services hearing that the surveillance capabilities the troops can bring will be of great help to the Border Patrol, with vehicles outfitted with cameras and sensors to detect looming incursions and to direct agents where to go.
“We bring a skillset with respect to detection and monitoring that I think is going to be very valuable for CBP,” the admiral said.
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