There are 965 National Guard troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told a Senate panel April 17.
Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel spoke at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense.
On April 4, President Donald J. Trump signed a proclamation directing the Defense Department to assist the Homeland Security Department by providing security on the border, Lengyel said. The Defense Department authorized use of the National Guard to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection, he told the Senate panel, noting that Defense Secretary James N. Mattis authorized up to 4,000 troops through Sept. 30 in the ongoing effort.
National Guard troops were deployed April 6, Lengyel said, with the Guard soldiers and airmen under the command and control of their state governors. “With the movement from Texas and Arizona and a few planners from New Mexico, they began to move in and posture their assistance for the CBP,” the general said.
Support for customs, border protection
The Guard troops are involved in “primarily things that enable Customs and Border Protection agents to leave nondirect border security jobs and go to the border and provide border security, and doing things like maintenance, communications, transportation, the operation of perhaps heavy equipment, analysis, trend analysis, and using some intelligence and surveillance and some aviation assets to assist in those endeavors,” Lengyel said.
“What they are not doing is [having] any direct civilian law enforcement operations, and they are not doing any direct contact with migrants unless … explicitly authorized by the Department of Defense, and that has not yet occurred,” he added.
The DOD comptroller has been directed to look across the department to find funding to pay for the National Guard resources to work for Customs and Border Protection, Lengyel said.
The cost of the mission is difficult to estimate, Lengyel told the senators, because it is not known how many of the authorized 4,000 troops will be deployed or how long they will stay.