- President Donald Trump signed a directive ordering National Guard personnel be deployed to the border.
- On Thursday, Trump gave a rough number for the size of the force to be deployed.
- But the exact number, and many other details of the operation, remain unclear.
During an Air Force One flight from West Virginia to Washington, DC, on Thursday, President Donald Trump for the first time gave a concrete number for the number of US military personnel he wants to deploy to the US-Mexico border.
“Anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000,” Trump said, according to a White House press corps pool report. When asked about the cost, Trump said his administration is “looking at it.”
“We’ll probably keep them or a large portion of them” in place until the proposed border wall is constructed, Trump added, according to the report.
The number given by Trump is not certain, nor is it clear what the duties of the guardsmen deployed to the frontier will be.
Trump’s stated number is in line with previous deployments by President George W. Bush, who called up 6,000 guardsmen to secure the border (though 29,000 military personnel were eventually involved), and by President Barack Obama, who deployed 1,200 guardsmen in 2010. That deployment was scaled back to a few hundred personnel and its mission changed in 2012.
The Trump administration plans to work with four Southwest states to deploy the troops, who will not be armed nor involved in law enforcement, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said previously.
The Pentagon has said little about how the deployment will be carried out, what timeline it will take place on, or how many personnel could take part.
“The president has authorized the National Guard, with the affected governors’ approval, to enhance its support to CBP along the border,” Dana White, chief spokesperson for the Pentagon, said at a news conference on Thursday, referring to US Customs and Border Protection. “The National Guard’s efforts will include aviation, engineering, surveillance, communications, vehicle maintenance and logistical support.”
“We will focus on supporting CBP’s priorities, which will determine the time frame and number of military personnel employed,” White added. White also announced the creation of a new Border Security and Support Cell, which will include several Defense Department representatives, to be the “single conduit for information and coordination between the Pentagon and DHS.”
“This is not business as usual,” White said, according to CBS News.
Outside of Washington, US military personnel appeared to be caught off guard by the announcement.
A spokeswoman at US Northern Command, which is based in Colorado Springs and oversees military operations in Northern America, told The Colorado Springs Gazette the command was “standing by for guidance.”
Other sources told The Gazette that the command was not notified of Trump’s directive and hadn’t been planning for it. One said the operation could circumvent the command altogether.
“Nothing exists to tell us what is going to happen,” the source said.