Cost of Trump’s Troop Deployment to the Border to Reach Over $500 Million

Published on April 9, 2019 by Athena Pallas

The Pentagon has stated that the cost for President Trump’s troop deployment at the southern border will reach at least $534 million by the end of the fiscal year, which is the end of September. That stunning figure of more than half a billion dollars of taxpayer money is being spent on this mission which many see as ill-conceived, unnecessary, and wasteful both of troop resources and of money. That figure may even be quite understated; it accounts both for National Guard troops and active duty troops, but the figures for the active duty portion of the deployment only go through this January, according to The Hill, and so do not account for the additional eight months to get to the end of the fiscal year.

The Pentagon’s estimates, released to the public today, were in response to questions posed in a letter from Democratic lawmakers. The letter was sent to the Pentagon in February by 13 member of Congress, all of whom are either veterans or have a national security background or both. That initiative was led by Representative Anthony Brown (D-MD). Those members of Congress expressed their growing concern about this very issue, the massive use of resources for questionable purposes at the border. The response letter from the Pentagon was written by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth Rapuano. According to The Hill:

The Trump administration’s deployment of troops to the southern border is expected to cost at least $534 million by the end of the fiscal year in September, the Pentagon told lawmakers in a letter released Tuesday. That includes $350 million on the National Guard-backed mission called Operation Guardian Support for the current and previous fiscal year, and $184 million for the active-duty supported mission called Operation Secure Line. But the Operation Secure Line amount only accounts for the total through the end of this past January, meaning the cost will almost definitely rise. … Prior to the release of Rapuano’s letter, the Pentagon’s last official cost estimate for the active-duty troops was $132 million by the end of this past January. … Rapuano told the lawmakers that troops will stay at the southern border until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “no longer requires DoD support to secure the southern border.”

Rapuano also said that for strategy purposes, the Pentagon is deferring to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Given the tumult currently occurring at DHS, with the exit of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and with more exits apparently soon in the offing, should the Pentagon really be trying to avoid any responsibility for what is happening at the border, when it is deploying troops and spending hundreds of millions of dollars there? Representative Brown (D-MD) also criticized the Pentagon’s attempt to shirk responsibility, as well as the lack of a “real mission” at the border, tweeting, according to The Hill, “The National Guard has been deployed to the border for a year, active duty personnel have been on the border for almost six months, and DOD’s position is that they will all remain there until DHS doesn’t need them anymore. There is no real mission, and no strategy for success.” Another controversy has stemmed from previous reports indicating that those National Guard troops at the border are in many cases being made to do menial tasks, such as including shoveling horse manure, fixing flat tires, and clearing vegetation.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.