PENTAGON: More troops are heading to the US border with Mexico, Pentagon officials said on Friday. That brings the number deployed from the current 5,000 to about 6,000, even as the Pentagon considers transferring close to $4 billion to support the Border Patrol and build infrastructure. About 2,100 of the troops deployed currently are National Guard, the other 3,000 or so active-duty regulars.
While the troops will be on the move, it will still be “months” before the Pentagon can begin spending any of that money, even without the entanglements of multiple lawsuits already working their way through the court system.
A defense official speaking on the condition of anonymity told reporters at the Pentagon Friday that no money will be moving any time soon.
“We talking a matter of weeks for the [initial] assessment leading up to a decision” by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, the official said. “And we’re looking at months for the actual implementation to the point of construction — breaking ground. And we’re talking longer than months for the completion of the construction.”
That vague sketch of a timeline is as close as we’ve been able to come to understanding how long the process might take for the Pentagon to funnel military construction funds toward roads, fencing, and lighting along the southern border.
The $3.6 billion identified will not come from military family housing budgets, but would instead be pulled from “unawarded projects, recapitalization projects that update or replace existing structures,” the official said.
Asked what military construction projects could lose funding, the official said they would likely be pulled from projects slated to begin later in the fiscal year, and then only those that would have “minimal impact on readiness or operations.”
It is unclear what effect this might have on the 2020 budget request — the money apparently would come from multiple fiscal years — and Pentagon officials have declined to comment on the subject. The Pentagon budget is slated to be released on March 11.
As for where things stand presently, the Joint Staff is studying an initial request from DHS outlining what kind of support it needs, after which Pentagon lawyers will have a go at it, followed by the Comptroller. If Shanahan then decides to move forward, the Army Corps of Engineers will be briefed. Only then will the Army start to coordinate with DHS how the Pentagon can help.
Then comes potentially the trickiest — and most political — part of the whole thing: The Pentagon will notify legislators of its plans to transfer funds, plans which Congress could try to override.