Defense chief says Pentagon likely to send more troops to border soon

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Friday that he expects the Pentagon will soon send additional troops to the border, though the Defense Department (DOD) has yet to receive a formal request for such support.

“It shouldn't come as a surprise that we'll provide more support to the border,” Shanahan told reporters prior to meeting with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen at the Pentagon.

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“Our support is very elastic, and given the deterioration there at the border, you would expect that we would provide more support,” he said.

Asked if troops would be involved in detaining migrants in any way, he said “we haven't received any details on that, but I expect an increase in support will occur.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE earlier this week said he may send more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to deal with the spike in migrant families entering the country.

“I’m going to have to call up more military,” Trump said Wednesday.

NBC News reported that Shanahan was among the top national security advisers who gathered at the White House Tuesday night to discuss whether the military could build tent city detention camps for migrants and whether it could legally run the camps.

There are roughly 3,000 active-duty service members at the southern border after Trump first deployed troops there in the fall to assist in addressing a migrant caravan traveling from Central America.

The troops are in addition to about 2,000 National Guard members ordered there in April 2018 to assist in border security.  

Shanahan said he had not yet received a formal request from the Department of Homeland Security for more support, but Pentagon officials have “been having a number of conversations” with the department.

He added that defense officials will gather “a planning team” at the Pentagon on Saturday to “follow up with where are we on barrier construction, where do we stand on troops deployed and then in the areas we anticipate, what type of preliminary plans should we be doing prior to receiving a request for assistance.”

DOD earlier this week approved a March request from the Department of Health and Human Services to find housing for as many as 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children, but the Pentagon would not actually oversee the housing of the children.