The Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security have reached a deal to continue U.S. military support of operations at the U.S.-Mexico border through the end of September, officials announced Monday night.
A DHS request made Dec. 27 to extend the presence of troops at the border was approved by Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, the Pentagon said in a brief released statement. But while service members will remain in support roles, their mission will change.
"DOD is transitioning its support at the southwestern border from hardening ports of entry to mobile surveillance and detection, as well as concertina wire emplacement between ports of entry. DOD will continue to provide aviation support," officials said in the statement.
An official told the Associated Press the work planned for the troops includes laying an additional 150 miles of concertina wire between official ports of entry.
The roughly 2,350 U.S. troops currently deployed to the border have already overstayed the original planned conclusion of their mission.
The mission, begun at the end of October, put active-duty troops in support roles, backing up U.S. Customs and Border Patrol personnel as they braced for what was described as a "caravan" of migrants approaching the border from the south.
At its peak, the military mission saw more than 5,700 troops deployed across the southwest border in Texas, Arizona and California. In December, the Pentagon agreed to an extension of the border mission through the end of January, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered a reduction in troop presence to below 4,000.
While many of the troops at the border were allowed to carry weapons for protection, they were not tasked with crowd control or defense. Rather, they have been in support and infrastructure roles. One of the chief accomplishments of the deployment to date has been the installation of more than 150 miles of razor wire along the border.
The first leg of the active-duty border deployment was estimated to cost $210 million; it's not clear how much this newly approved seven-month extension will cost.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.