National Guard expects $193M shortfall in training account due to border deployment

The National Guard will have to cut back weekend drills because of its deployment to the southern border if the Pentagon doesn’t move around money to replenish its training account, the chief of the National Guard said Wednesday.

National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee he anticipates a $193 million shortfall as a result of the border deployment.

“If we don’t reprogram funds back into our training accounts, we will have to make modifications within our current appropriation that will either reduce our training opportunities or do things like cancel drill weekends to find the money,” Lengyel said.

Right now, there are 2,079 National Guard members deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE’s hard-line immigration approach. They are joined by about 3,900 active-duty troops.

Guardsmen were first deployed to the border in April 2018 and are scheduled to stay there until the end of the fiscal year in September.

Lengyel said he expects the number of Guardsmen on the border to stay at roughly 2,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year, despite Department of Homeland Security requests for more.

This fiscal year, the deployment is expected to cost about $247 million.

Lengyel’s comment Wednesday about possibly canceling training did not sit well with the subcommittee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (Ill.).

“General, haven’t you come before this committee repeatedly, and told us you need readiness more than anything else?” Durbin asked. “Would you like to explain to me how canceling drill weekends enhances the readiness of the National Guard?”

Lengyel acknowledged canceled drills would affect readiness, but said he is hopeful funds will be transferred to prevent that.

“Canceling drill weekends will impact readiness,” Lengyel replied. “I would tell you that what our hope is that the department finds funds available inside the department that are re-allocatable so that we don’t have to do that.”

There are no funds for the border deployment requested in the National Guard’s fiscal year 2020 budget request. Pressed by Durbin on if that means the service will face a similar issue with training next year, Lengyel said “if there is a further assignment beyond the end of this year and into next, we’ll have to make accommodations to find the money.”