WASHINGTON — Two acting secretaries went to the U.S.-Mexico border to asses the situation, gauge the emergency declared by President Donald Trump and to quantify needs to meet the alleged migrant invasion.
They went, they saw and they said the need is the same: more money, more troops and more time.
“This isn’t about identifying a problem. It’s about fixing a problem more quickly,” Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary said.
Shanahan said Saturday that he intends to push forward planning on ways to secure the border and increase the Trump administration’s resources to accomplish that without the Pentagon’s opened-ended help, according to news reports.
He said that would mean a larger force for Customs and Border Protection, and to underscore that Shanahan repurposed a line from the 1948 adventure film “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” — “How do we get more badges back to the border?”
One of Shanahan’s ideas is for Army Gen. Ricky Waddell to develop a plan to provide a path to expand the Department of Homeland Security’s presence and lessen the Defense Department presence. Shanahan was accompanied on the Texas stop by Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who agreed with Shanahan, according to news reports.
Despite his stated desire to reduce the Pentagon role in the U.S.-Mexico border operation, Shanahan’s actions over the past few days appear counter to that goal.
He announced on Friday that he was transferring $1.5 billion from numerous defense projects, including $604 million originally intended for use in support of Afghan security forces, to a Pentagon counter-drug fund that will help finance construction of barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border. That is in addition to $1 billion the Pentagon transferred for wall construction in March.
That work is said to be for fence replacement on four additional projects in and around Tucson, Ariz., and El Centro, Texas, totaling 78.25 miles, the Pentagon said.
Another report, by the Washington Post, said Shanahan also plans to pull $1.5 billion from the nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile and a plane that provides surveillance and communications to fighter jets while airborne. That transfer was not announced.
Nor did Shanahan announce how DHS, on Friday, submitted another request for Pentagon assistance. That request is for shelter for detained migrants, and would include tents to be erected and readied by military troops, according to news reports and confirmed by Shanahan’s spokesperson, Lt. Col. Joe Buccino.
“We’re not going to leave until the border is secure,” Shanahan did tell reporters.
Meanwhile, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Sunday that 731 northern border agents from land, sea and airports are in the process of being sent to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to news reports.