The Army Corps of Engineers has shut down border wall construction on sites in Arizona and San Diego following a federal judge’s Dec. 10 ruling, but that decision is not expected to affect the number of troops stationed at the U.S.-Mexico border, a Defense Department spokesman told Military Times.
Though four projects totaling about 175 miles of wall are now on hold, the defense secretary has not made any moves to send more troops to the border or pull any back, according to Army Lt. Col. Christian Mitchell.
Pentagon officials have previously said that the need for troops on the border will decrease as more barriers are built, to help the Homeland Security Department deal with illegal crossings, but Mitchell did not confirm whether there will be any lengthening of rotations or an extension of the total border mission in light of the court-ordered halt to construction.
“The expectation is that construction of these projects will reduce the demand for DoD personnel and assets at the locations where the barriers are built, and allow DoD to provide support to DHS more efficiently and effectively,” Mitchell said.
The total authorized number of troops at the southern border is still 5,500, according to a September authorization from Defense Secretary Mark Esper. So far, that number has hovered around 5,000, split between active-duty and National Guard troops.
“As additional barriers are built, and the current humanitarian and security crises change, DoD and DHS will continue to evaluate capabilities needed to support the border security mission,” Mitchell said.
The judge in the case denied the Justice Department’s motion, filed Dec. 16 according to court records, to hold off the work stoppage while it works through an appeal.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.