GOP Armed Services chair 'no longer concerned' about training for border troops

GOP Armed Services chair 'no longer concerned' about training for border troops
© Stefani Reynolds

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Monday he is satisfied that U.S. troops at the southern border are getting training from the deployment after visiting troops there.

“I’ve been concerned about taking our troops out and putting them in areas that are not really the same thing they are normally accustomed to doing. Well, I was wrong about this,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTrump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase Warren spars with Trump's top Defense nominee over ethics MORE (R-Okla.) told reporters Monday. “They have to artificially train when they’re back in garrison because they can’t create the exact circumstances that you can find in the field. Down here, the things that they would be doing on the border are very much the same things they would be doing in Afghanistan in terms of security.”

“So the training benefits are good, and I’m no longer concerned about that,” he added.

Inhofe added later in response to a question from The Hill that he wants to put language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) recognizing that the border deployment can provide “very effective” training in lieu of training “artificially” at bases.

Inhofe, a staunch supporter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE, was speaking to reporters on a conference call after a border tour near Port of Brownsville, Texas.

Despite saying Monday he had been concerned about the effects on readiness, Inhofe has previously backed the deployment.

Inhofe’s trip during the Senate’s spring recess comes as the Pentagon prepares to send more troops to the border.

Right now, there are about 3,000 active-duty service members at the U.S.-Mexico border, in addition to about 2,000 National Guardsmen.

The service members have largely been tasked with putting up barbed wire, as well as conducting surveillance.

Trump said earlier month he may “have to call up more military” at the border to respond to a spike in migrant families entering the country.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanPentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing MORE said afterward he expected to send more troops to the border soon. As of Friday, he said he had not received a formal request to do so.

Lawmakers — mostly Democrats, but some Republicans — have expressed concern that diverting military resources to the border will affect on readiness. In addition to the deployment, Trump declared a national emergency to tap into $3 billion in military construction funds for his proposed border wall and used separate executive power to transfer $1 billion from Army accounts to drug interdiction accounts to be used on the wall.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller made waves last month when two memos leaked in which he warned the border deployment was one of several “unplanned/unbudgeted” events posing an “unacceptable risk” to the service’s combat readiness.

He later downplayed the importance of the border deployment to the Marines’s financial issues, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee that some Marines have reported improved readiness because the deployment provided training.