Donald Trump will tell anyone who'll listen that that the United States faces an extraordinary security crisis along our southern border. The situation is so dire, the president likes to argue, that he's felt the need to dispatch U.S. troops, shut down the government, and circumvent Congress to build a border wall with funds that are supposed to be spent on the military.
The fact that many of those on his team disagree is an embarrassment the Republican prefers to ignore.
Last month, for example, 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.
Policymakers heard a related assessment yesterday from the commander of the U.S. Northern Command.
The four-star Air Force general in charge of the defense of the U.S. homeland told lawmakers Tuesday the influx of illegal immigrants and illicit narcotics across the southern border does not constitute a national emergency, despite claims by the White House otherwise.In written testimony submitted to Senate Armed Services Committee members, Northern Command chief Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy noted that the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border did not rise to the level of a military threat.
As Rachel noted on last night's 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."
Given the president's policy of diverting funds from the Pentagon's budget in pursuit of border barriers, the general's assessment didn't do the White House any favors.
Indeed, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, asked yesterday, "The threat isn't military, and still we'll take $6 billion out of the defense budget to deal with it? If we set that precedent, I certainly can foresee a day when a president is going to say 40,000 gun deaths a year are an emergency, and why don't we take money out of the Pentagon budget to deal with that?"
Meanwhile, in the House:
Congressional leaders from both parties told Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Tuesday that the Trump administration's plan to use Pentagon funds to build a border wall will hurt readiness, and demanded justification for using the funds."We fear that reprogramming funding intended for military construction projects and counterdrug activities will come at the expense of troop readiness and Department-wide efforts to address the military's aging infrastructure," wrote Reps. John Garamendi, D–Calif., and Doug Lamborn, R–Colo., the chair and ranking member of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, in a letter to Shanahan.
The bipartisan leadership of the House Armed Services Committee have asked the Defense Department for a response by Friday. Watch this space.