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Speier, Warren, O’Rourke Question Defense Secretary Mattis on Deployment of Military Personnel to Border

November 20, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee; Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who serves on the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee; and Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX); sent a bicameral letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis requesting information about President Trump's decision to deploy more than 5,000 active duty military personnel to the southwest border. 

On October 29, 2018, eight days before the midterm election, President Trump announced the deployment of active duty military personnel to the southwest border region in response to what he called an “invasion” of several thousand Central American migrants fleeing violence and instability in their home countries.

In their letter, Reps. Speier and O’Rourke and Sen. Warren expressed concern with the unprecedented timing of the deployment; one week before a national election. The lawmakers also noted that this was the largest deployment of active duty service members on such short notice since the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, and that active duty troops have not been sent to the border in over three decades.

The lawmakers’ letter cited a recent New York Times report, which indicated that Pentagon officials view the President’s deployment as “an expensive waste of time and resources, and a morale killer to boot,” and questioned whether the deployment may have been announced and undertaken in order to influence the upcoming election.

“We are distressed by this report, and increasingly concerned about the lack of planning for and continued lack of clarity surrounding this operation, the lack of a clear mission for the deployed troops, the cost of this operation, and the appearance that the President is using the military for partisan political purposes,” the lawmakers wrote.

The New York Times report also raised concerns with the conditions under which the troops at the border now serve, describing substandard living conditions and health risks due to extreme conditions. The report also revealed that the troops stationed at the border have “little to do beyond providing logistical support.”

“This is a disturbing report and raises a number of questions as to whether or not the deployment of U.S. troops to the border by President Trump was a wise, effectively planned, and appropriate use of DOD resources,” the lawmakers continued.

Reps. Speier and O’Rourke and Sen. Warren asked Secretary Mattis to respond to a series of detailed questions regarding the planning behind the deployment, the cost of the operation, its timeline, and the rules of engagement for the operation. They have requested that Secretary Mattis provide a response by December 10, 2018.

Click here to view a copy of the letter.

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