Trump's Border Deployment Raises Questions About Cost and Impact on Military Readiness

WASHINGTON -- Texas' homeland security chief lauded the deployment of National Guard troops to the border on Thursday, telling Congress the situation remains dire even as questions mount about the costs, lack of planning, and impact on military readiness.Other experts - and Democratic lawmakers--argued that President Donald Trump and his aides have been crafting justification for the deployment on the fly, and only after a hasty decision by Trump prompted by Congress refusing to fund a proposed border wall."Obviously the Texas-Mexico border is unsecure.... If you've got a drug problem, you have a cartel problem, you've got an unsecure border problem. If you have a MS-13 problem in New York, you have a border problem," Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified at a House oversight and government affairs hearing. "As Texas goes, so goes the nation."Gov. Greg Abbott readily agreed to Trump's request for National Guard last week. So did Republican governors in Arizona and New Mexico. California's Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, agreed to provide guardsmen in a more limited role.Trump cited a caravan of Central American protesters that marched north through Mexico as justification for sending 2,000 to 4,000 troops to the border, though most of the marchers never intended to attempt to cross and the caravan has largely dispersed. The annual event is meant to raise awareness for the conditions facing migrant workers, although some hardline anti-immigrant advocates have depicted it as a sort of invasion force.Trump said he will keep troops at the border until Congress approves a border wall. He has sought $25 billion for the proposal and so far gotten about $1.9 billion. Guard units work at the direction of governors but with federal funds.Last week, House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, expressed concern that the border mission will sap funds needed for other Pentagon priorities. The budget Trump signed last month includes $700 billion for defense - funds that he and defense hawks such as Thornberry insisted on, to rebuild military capacity."If you take money away, you can't do some of those things that you were trying to do, like add pilots or repair the ships or those sorts of things," Thornberry told the Wichita Falls Times Record News. "I fully support doing more at the border, but we don't need to rob the military."Michael Breen, president of the center-left Truman Center and Truman National Security project, testified at Thursday's hearing that while border security is essential, "It is not at this time, definitively not, a military problem."Nor, he said, is there any sign of a "deliberative planning process" behind Trump's surprise decision to order National Guard to the border.Breen said the cost of the deployment will be in the hundreds of millions and "Congress should ask hard questions about the impact on readiness for combat....There's a great danger when policymakers reach for the military as a Band-Aid to solve problems in other areas of government. The military can only do so many things. It's been overstretched."  Continue reading...

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