National Guard chief says troops have been requested to stay at US-Mexico border beyond September
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security has sent a request to the Defense Department to keep troops at the U.S.-Mexico border beyond Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year, the National Guard’s top general said Tuesday.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine., said during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on National Guard and Reserve forces that the Defense Department received a request from Homeland Security to continue the Guard’s border deployment into the 2022 fiscal year.
She asked Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, to share details on the status of the planning to extend the Guard’s mission at the southern border.
“We received that request recently. I know it’s going through the Office of Secretary of Defense right now to determine how that’s going to be resourced going forward,” Hokanson said.
The general said active-duty troops could be called up to provide support in place of Guard members, and the department is “looking at all options.”
“We’re making sure that we do this as quickly as possible to notify those forces so there’s no break in coverage,” Hokanson said.
Pentagon spokesman Chris Mitchell said Tuesday that the department has received a formal request but did not provide further details.
About 4,000 National Guard troops are now providing infrastructure support, operational support, detection and monitoring support and air support along the U.S.-Mexico border, Mitchell said last week.
About 180 Guard troops in Arizona and 600 Guard troops in Texas are also performing state missions along the border, he said.
Collins said at the hearing that she supports the move to keep troops at the southern border, due to the influx of migrants that are crossing from Mexico into the United States.
“It is evident that the border patrol agents -- though they work so hard -- are overwhelmed and really need assistance. So, I hope that will be approved or that active-duty forces will assist,” the senator said.
It was unclear Tuesday how many troops have been requested to stay at the border or for how long. However, Homeland Security officials told the Government Accountability Office during a review in February of the Pentagon’s mission at the border that they want troops to remain there for the next three years.
“DHS anticipates needing at least the current amount of [Defense Department] support for the next three to five years, possibly more,” according to the report on the cost and readiness implications of continued DoD support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
When President Joe Biden took office in January, he rolled back former President Donald Trump’s national emergency declared at the border. That declaration from February 2019 and other policies from Trump on the border served as the Pentagon’s basis for approving Homeland Security’s support requests, according to the report.
However, the Pentagon has said Biden’s actions have not impacted the mission or the presence of troops at the border.