Congress allows Pentagon to shift funding to pay for border mission

By Tony Bertuca / July 24, 2018 at 1:01 PM

Congress has granted the Pentagon authority to shift millions of dollars to pay for day-to-day operations of the Army National Guard on the southern border.

The Pentagon today posted a reprogramming request that sought congressional approval to shift $120 million from the Army's basic account for housing to its personnel account for the National Guard.

"Funds are required for fourth quarter pay and allowances of full-time Active Guard Reserve personnel providing day-to-day operations of the Army Guard," the request states. "Accounts have been depleted due to the National Guard mission on the southern border and must be replenished to support planned activities and support readiness."

The May 29 request was recently approved by the four congressional defense committees.

National Guard troops began deploying to the southern border in April, following an announcement from President Trump citing a "drastic surge of illegal activity."

Defense Secretary James Mattis has authorized up to 4,000 National Guard troops to deploy to the U.S. border with Mexico to support the Department of Homeland Security.

The Pentagon also announced it would stand up a new border security cell.

Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, has said National Guard troops will act in support of border patrol agents who are performing law enforcement duties.

Democrats have criticized Trump's order to send troops to the border and continue to seek information from the Defense Department.

"President Trump's decision to deploy the National Guard on the U.S. border is an ill-conceived, unnecessary stunt that inappropriately militarizes the issue of immigration enforcement," Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said in an April 10 statement.

The Pentagon has also been ordered to identify or construct facilities capable of housing up to 12,000 undocumented migrants for a period of six months.

Democrats, who criticized Trump's now-jettisoned family separation policy, have sent a letter to Mattis requesting assurances that lawmakers will be able to conduct necessary oversight over any DOD sites used to house migrant children.

Meanwhile, House and Senate lawmakers recently finalized a fiscal year 2019 defense authorization bill containing a provision that expresses the "sense of Congress on the importance of gaining and maintaining control" of U.S. international borders, as well as "the role and importance of devoting adequate resources for the Department of Homeland Security to accomplish that mission, and the role and importance of adequate resources for the Department of Defense to support that mission while maintaining combat readiness," according to a report accompanying the bill.