WASHINGTON – The deployment of about 2,000 National Guard troops to aid Customs and Border Protection along the U.S.-Mexico border is expected to cost about $182 million, a Pentagon spokeswoman said.
The money would fund the troops through the end of September, Pentagon Chief Spokeswoman Dana White told reporters Thursday. The 2,000 troops is roughly half the number that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authorized to deploy to the U.S.-Mexico border to assist law enforcement with security, she said. President Donald Trump has long railed against the state of the nation's southern border, describing it as porous and allowing undocumented immigrants and drugs to flow into the United States.
Customs and Border Protection has only formally requested about 2,000 National Guardsmen, thus far, White said. However, she indicated negotiations for deploying more troops were ongoing.
The $182 million would be funded primarily through National Guard operations and maintenance budgets, typically used among Guard units to cover the cost of training, and from military personnel accounts.
White said the Pentagon had "no concern" that using money meant to fund Guard units training would hurt their combat readiness.
National Guard members began deploying to the border last month after Mattis' authorized the operation. They operate under the control of the governors of the border states.
So far, more than 1,000 troops have deployed to border areas in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California. Their mission is to aid the Department of Homeland Security, primarily by providing capabilities such as aviation, surveillance, engineering, communications and logistical operations.
Mattis told lawmakers last month that the troops would not be authorized to make arrests.
"These forces will not involve themselves with the migrants themselves or have any law enforcement duties," he told the House Armed Services Committee on April 12.
Trump ordered Mattis to approve the deployments last month after growing frustrated with inaction on his promised border wall, a major theme during his campaign that he has said he intends to see through.
Trump is the third consecutive president to send National Guard troops to the border. George W. Bush deployed about 6,400 Guardsmen to the border from 2006 to 2008. In 2010, Barack Obama sent about 1,200 troops to the border.