The Defense Department is enhancing its support to the Department of Homeland Security to secure the U.S. border with Mexico, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said today.
President Donald J. Trump authorized the National Guard, with the affected governors’ approval, to enhance its support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the southern U.S. border, White said at a Pentagon news briefing.
"The National Guard’s efforts will include aviation, engineering, surveillance, communications, vehicle maintenance and logistical support," White said.
Agreement on Border Security
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis agrees with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen that border security is national security, White said. The two secretaries, she explained, are working closely together to enhance DoD support to DHS.
The National Guardsmen will act in support of border patrol agents who are performing law enforcement duties, she said, adding that the timeframe and troop levels have not yet been determined.
New Support Cell
White announced that effective immediately, DoD is establishing a new border security support cell led by Kenneth P. Rapuano, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security.
“This is a 24/7 cell comprised of several DoD representatives who will serve as the single conduit for information and coordination between DoD and DHS,” she said. The cell will last for the foreseeable future to ensure DoD surges its capacity to meet the president’s enhanced border security goals, she added.
White noted the department already provides support to DHS for the border security mission, such as training, counternarcotics missions, border fence construction and use of DoD equipment and facilities.
‘Drastic Surge of Illegal Activity’
In a presidential memorandum yesterday, Trump said the security of the United States is “imperiled by a drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border.”
He directed the secretary of defense to support DHS in “securing the southern border and taking other necessary actions to stop the flow of deadly drugs and other contraband, gang members and other criminals, and illegal aliens into this country.”
Trump said at the White House on April 3 that he wants to use the military for border protection in response to gaps in security there. “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” he said.
Previous presidents have deployed National Guard troops to support security along the U.S. southern border; 6,000 were sent under President George W. Bush, and 1,200 under President Barack Obama.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)