One of President Joe Biden’s first actions came Wednesday evening as he put an end to the state of emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, a declaration by former President Donald Trump that funneled funding and troops to the country’s southern border.
But though no more funds will be allocated to cover border barriers and already awarded contracts will have to be diverted, a Defense Department spokesman told Military Times on Thursday that there are no current plans for redeployment of thousands of troops.
Biden’s executive order “has no direct effect on DoD support to the border mission,” Army Lt. Col. Christian Mitchell said. “It will continue as normal.”
More than 3,000 troops, mostly National Guardsmen, are still rotating to the border to support Customs and Border Protection missions, though they have not be tasked with detaining anyone who tries to cross the border.
At the peak, the Pentagon had authorized up to 5,500 troops on the border, which former Defense Secretary Mark Esper dropped down to 4,000 in June.
All told, DoD kicked in $11 billion over 2019 and 2020, most of which had been allocated for military construction projects and acquisition of vehicles, aircraft and other equipment.
The diverted military construction funds, totally $3.6 billion, meant delaying renovations or new facilities for over 100 projects, including on-base schools, weapons rangers, a hazardous waste treatment facility and more.
That totaled 43 projects in 23 states, 21 in three U.S. territories and another 63 in 20 partner nations abroad.
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By October, the most recent data available to Military Times, about $7.5 billion of that had been awarded to contractors who would build nearly 400 miles of border wall with it.
Now, under Biden’s Wednesday executive order, all construction must be paused by Jan. 27, as reviews of the legality of all of the money used for the construction get underway.
On top of that, the defense, homeland security and treasury secretaries, along with the attorney general and director of the Office of Management and Budget have 60 days to “develop a plan for the redirection of funds concerning the southern border wall,” Biden wrote, which may include canceling or repurposing contracts.
The order also prohibits any new money from being allocated for the wall, though that was not likely to be part of DoD’s ongoing plans.
In February, Bob Salesses, then the deputy assistant defense secretary for homeland defense integration, told reporters that 2020 was probably the last year the Pentagon would contribute to border wall construction, based on the progress the administration had made in funding and building the barriers.
About Meghann Myers
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.