The Pentagon will increase the number of troops along the U.S.-Mexico border to about 6,000 by the start of next month as the Trump administration turns its attention to securing remote areas between official ports of entry, a senior U.S. defense official said Friday.
About 1,000 additional personnel will be deployed with orders to string more concertina wire and install detection systems, the official said.
The official, who was authorized by the Pentagon to speak to reporters only on the condition of anonymity, said that so far, military forces had installed 70 miles of concertina wire, reinforced ports of entry, provided medical support to migrants and helped transport Customs and Border Protection agents by aircraft.
“That mission has evolved,” the senior defense official said. “We are now transitioning to supporting [areas] between the ports of entry. We’re laying down another 140 miles of concertina wire — we’re about 30 percent done with that — as well as providing a ground-based detection and monitoring mission in support of CBP.”
CBP agents use unattended ground sensors to detect and monitor migrants who come across the border illegally.
The new influx of troops comes as Trump prepares to take $6.1 billion from the Pentagon budget, without authorization from Congress, to fund construction of a border wall. He is using a combination of emergency powers and counterdrug authorities to do so.
The approximately 6,000 troops that the Pentagon said would be at the border by March 1 include about 2,100 National Guard personnel. The guardsmen are deployed to the border to help relieve what the Trump administration has described as strain on CBP due to a large number of Central American families crossing the border.
The governors of California and New Mexico ordered the withdrawal of most of the guardsmen from the border in their states, calling the deployment political theater. As a result, the overall number of guardsmen deployed could soon decrease.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that lawmakers plan to vote Tuesday on a measure rejecting Trump’s national emergency declaration. Democrats expect that they will have some Republican support in the House and the Senate.
Correction: A previous version of this story said incorrectly that the deployment would consist of 6,000 active-duty troops by March 1 and therefore return the military’s footprint at the border to its peak size. The Pentagon issued a correction Friday evening, indicating that the senior defense official cited in this report misspoke during a media briefing earlier in the day.