April 09, 2019

Duckworth, Senators Ask Pentagon if Trump’s Border Deployment Threatens Military Readiness

Trump’s deployment of thousands of servicemembers to Southern border expected to cost at least $500 million


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator and combat Veteran Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with fellow Senate Armed Services Committee members Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), expressed concern this week that the Trump Administration’s wasteful deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to the southern border is harming military readiness. In a letter, the Senators asked Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to reconcile the Trump Administration’s insistance that the border deployment would not affect readiness with warnings by Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller about the “unacceptable risk” and fiscal challenges posed by the deployment.

“We are extraordinarily distressed by the concerns raised by General Neller,” the Senators wrote. “We are particularly concerned about the cost and impact of the Southwest Border Operations and the border security funding transfers, given that they have not been authorized by Congress and because of previous assurances we have received that these factors would not impact readiness. These discrepancies require an explanation, and to the extent the southern border deployment is causing readiness concerns, they must be addressed immediately.”

The Senators questioned whether the deployment of approximately 4,000 active-duty personnel and approximately 2,000 National Guardsmen to the southern border – which is estimated to cost at least half a billion dollars – is an appropriate use of DOD resources. They also expressed concern with General Neller’s warning s questioned whether the deployment would cause any budget gaps or have an impact on readiness.

In October 2018, President Trump announced the deployment of active duty military personnel to the southwest border in response to what he called an “invasion” of several thousand Central American migrants fleeing violence and instability in their home countries. The deployment was extended by Acting Secretary Shanahan in January 2019 for an additional nine months. Duckworth has been a vocal critic of the deployment, calling it “a waste of taxpayer dollars and a complete misuse of our military.”

In their letter, the Senators asked Acting Secretary Shanahan to provide a staff-level briefing on the matter within seven days as well as a written explanation of how he will address the concerns raised by General Neller no later than April 22, 2019. A copy of the letter is available here.