Pentagon inspector general to probe 'use of military personnel along the southern border'

Pentagon inspector general to probe 'use of military personnel along the southern border'
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The Defense Department's inspector general on Tuesday announced that it is conducting an evaluation into the use of military personnel on the U.S. border with Mexico.

The inspector general’s office said in a memo that the probe will investigate the use of service members in support of security operations at the border; the training provided to military personnel, including that regarding contact with civilians; coordination and interaction with Homeland Security personnel; and the amount of funding dedicated to supporting the Defense Department’s deployment to the border. 

The memo, sent to several top Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Veterans group seeks Trump apology for comments on brain injuries | Pentagon says dozens of troops suffered traumatic injuries after attack | Trump unveils Space Force logo Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Dozens of US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries after Iran missile strikes MORE and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requested each party provide a point of contact to the inspector general for its probe by Friday. 

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The message to the military leaders comes after 34 House Democrats in September sent a letter to Defense Department acting Inspector General Glenn Fine demanding an investigation into the service members’ presence at the border. 

“The Trump Administration’s troop deployment at the border is nothing short of alarming and raises serious legal questions that the administration has repeatedly failed to answer,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who led the effort, said in a statement at the time. 

“The military should have no role in enforcing domestic law, and this troop deployment is another scare tactic by President TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE to create a crisis and traumatize asylum-seeking children and their families. The Trump Administration needs to answer these fundamental legal questions and halt their efforts to further militarize our border communities.”

The military’s presence at the border has been a focus of intense scrutiny by congressional Democrats who accuse President Trump of politicizing the Pentagon to help further his hard-line immigration policies, including the now-scrapped “zero tolerance” policy that produced a spike in family separations. 

Troop levels at the border, both among active-duty military and the National Guard, have fluctuated since the deployments began in the fall of 2018. A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to NBC News, which was the first to report on the memo, that there are currently 6,500 service members at the border, though that number is expected to drop after a troop transition.