The head of the Marine Corps ripped President Donald Trump’s order to deploy troops to guard the southern border and “emergency” funding transfers from the military to build his wall as an “unacceptable risk” to Marine “combat readiness.”
The “unplanned/unbudgeted” deployment, as well as funding shifts for border security, has helped lead to the cancellation of military training in at least five countries, Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller wrote in two memos to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
Trump plans to move about $6.1 billion from Pentagon coffers to pay for building the wall.
Neller’s memos, dated Feb. 19 and March 18, said money and manpower was also being drained by costs to repair bases and housing caused by hurricanes Florence and Michael, new housing allowances and civilian pay raises.
Neller called the demands “fiscal challenges without precedent.” He said “border funding transfers” have eliminated money that would have otherwise been used to address other shortfalls.
Because of the budgeting, Neller wrote that he has canceled training exercises in Scotland, Mongolia and Indonesia, and reduced participation in joint exercises with Australia and South Korea.
Trump has claimed the American military and a multibillion-dollar wall is needed at the southern border to stop an “invasion” of immigrants. But apprehensions of people illegally crossing the border peaked at 1.6 million 19 years ago, and have generally fallen since, to 400,000 last year.
Trump has ordered the deployment of some 6,000 troops from the National Guard, the Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force at the border until September.
Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said Trump has “ignored the facts, ignored the experts, and ignored a big bipartisan vote against his views on border security. I hope he doesn’t try to ignore this memo. Decorated senior military leaders are raising clear warning flags and trying to prevent our military from being damaged,” he added.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), vice chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, said Thursday that Neller’s memos expose the danger of Trump’s unilateral decision to divert Pentagon money to build his border wall.
“When will the president wake up and put the U.S. military over his campaign promises?” Durbin asked in a statement. “If the president won’t listen to the American people or Congress, then listen to the commandant of the Marine Corps.”