After a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border Saturday by top defense officials, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan hinted at a "wholesale redesign" of border security, The Washington Times reported.
"How do we get out of treating the symptoms and get at the root of the issue?" Shanahan told the Times.
"I don't want to just add resources and not fix the problem."
Shanahan suggested the Pentagon can contribute expertise in surveillance and monitoring, according to the report.
As the Pentagon weighs diverting billions of dollars for President Donald Trump's border wall, top defense officials toured sections of the U.S.-Mexico border Saturday to see how the military could reinforce efforts to block drug smuggling and other illegal activity.
Border security is under the purview of Department of Homeland Security, but Shanahan's Defense Department is weighing how it might assist amid President Trump's national emergency to build a border wall.
DHS has yet to provide the details that Shanahan says he needs before making his decision on the repurposing of military construction funds. He has said he is likely to provide the full $3.6 billion the White House is expecting, plus $2.5 billion from the drug interdiction program. Trump authorized the use of these military funds when he declared a national emergency to build a wall.
Wall construction would be done under contracts managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, whose commander, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, accompanied Shanahan on Saturday. The Corps has built 126 miles (203 kilometers) of border wall in the last two years — mostly replacement barriers, Semonite told reporters.
Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, are seeking to block Trump's emergency declaration to stop the diversion of Pentagon funds for his border wall. The House is to vote Tuesday on a resolution to block Trump.
There are about 2,900 active-duty troops and about 2,100 National Guard troops on the border in support of Customs and Border Protection. That combined total of 5,000 is expected to grow to 6,000 by March 1 as the Pentagon provides additional support.
The border mission for active-duty forces began on Oct. 30, 2018, as Trump asserted that caravans of Central American migrants posed an urgent national security threat. Critics dismissed his use of the military on the border as a political gimmick on the eve of midterm congressional elections. The active-duty mission has since been extended to Sept. 30.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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