The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Ariz., March 29, 2013.
Samantha Sais/Reuters

Marine Corps leader sees ‘unacceptable risks’ in Trump’s border agenda

Updated

Donald Trump has bragged for months about deploying U.S. troops to the country’s southern border, though at times, it seems the president has been confused about their mission and the kind of work the troops can do on American soil. What Trump has not addressed, however, are the concerns of military leaders who disapprove of his efforts.

The L.A. Times reported yesterday:

The commandant of the Marines has warned the Pentagon that deployments to the southwest border and funding transfers under the president’s emergency declaration, among other unexpected demands, have posed “unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency.”

In two internal memos, Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said the “unplanned/unbudgeted” deployment along the border that President Trump ordered last fall, and shifts of other funds to support border security, had forced him to cancel or reduce planned military training in at least five countries, and delay urgent repairs at bases.

The Times spoke with experts who were struck by the four-star general’s candor in the memos, which were dated earlier this week, and which were rather explicit in making the case that the White House’s agenda is adversely affecting military readiness.

Mandy Smithberger, a defense expert at the Project for Government Oversight, told the newspaper, “It’s pretty unusual for the commandant to be raising concerns that … a top political priority for the president is undermining the ability of the Marine Corps to do the training they need.”

If the Marine Corps commandant were alone in his concerns, they’d still be notable, but the significance of Neller’s memos are amplified by a larger pattern.

It was, after all, just last month when Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the four-star Air Force general in charge of domestic defense, told Congress that there is no national emergency at the U.S./Mexico border.

As Rachel noted on the show, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) specifically asked the four-star general whether he believes illegal border crossings represent a military threat. O’Shaughnessy expressed his support for “a secure border,” but quickly added that conditions at the border are “not a military threat.”

One month prior, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued its annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” report, and while it pointed to a series of legitimate challenges to our national security, it largely ignored conditions at the U.S./Mexico border.

Do you ever get the feeling Trump and the Trump administration’s national security team aren’t on the same page?