According to President Trump, hoards of undocumented immigrants are storming the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing crime and drugs into the country, constituting a national emergency.
But according to the Pentagon, Trump’s border crisis is a mere fabrication.
Congress members tasked with overseeing the US’s massive military grilled Pentagon officials today (Jan. 29) on one of Donald Trump most controversial orders—sending troops to the border with Mexico to handle a caravan of Central American immigrants.
The bipartisan House Armed Services Committee, which includes many of Congress’s military veterans and oversees a $700 billion annual defense budget, probed the cost of the order and its impact on other military operations during a three-hour hearing. The event raised questions about Trump’s motivations for declaring a “national emergency” on the border, which he threatened to do if he’s not happy with the outcome of ongoing talks on border security.
Trump has said he might declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress and begin work on his border wall project, but Pentagon officials indicated there is no basis for making such a move.
Trump’s wall plans have been criticized in part because the number of people being apprehended at the Southern border is at historical lows, and most of the drugs coming from the south travel through ports of entry, not the areas where a wall would be constructed. Today, Pentagon officials indicated that they don’t consider the situation at the border a threat to US security.
The troops currently stationed at the border are not even engaging in any activity that could not be performed by the Department of Homeland Security, according to the Pentagon.
”Given the threat description that surrounded this order,” are the service members on the border getting the extra bonus that active duty troops receive when they’re deployed to an area near hostile fire or mine explosions, asked Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat. “No, sir,” responded vice admiral Michael Gilday, operations director for the Joint Staff, the senior Pentagon council that advises the White House.
Paul Mitchell, a Michigan Republican, asked what the military is doing at the border that couldn’t be handled by the Department of Homeland Security, if they had the funding for it.
Nothing, was the short answer. “None of the capabilities that we are providing are combat capabilities,” Gilday said. “It’s not a war zone along the border.”
Nevertheless, the military is making preparations in case Trump decides to declare an emergency at the southern border, the Pentagon’s under secretary for Defense, John Rood, told lawmakers.
“We have done pre-planning to understand the law and the obligations,” the military may have, he said, but he refused to estimate what it might cost, or discuss any details. “We have not made any decisions,” he said.
But does the Pentagon believe Trump’s national emergency declaration would be warranted?
In short, no.
When asked which of the military’s stated missions on the border is the most pressing, whether stopping human trafficking, the flow of illegal drugs, or border crossers, Gilday didn’t choose, but admitted that overall drug enforcement operations have not been at the top of the military’s list.