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Pentagon could extend National Guard mission at southern border

Pentagon could extend National Guard mission at southern border
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The National Guard deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border could continue past its expected fall end date, the head of U.S. Northern Command said Tuesday.

About 3,500 National Guard troops from 22 states are currently assisting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in a mission along the southern border funded through September.

“Homeland Security, CBP, would like to continue [Department of Defense] DOD support,” Air Force Gen. Glenn VanHerck told reporters at the Pentagon. "There’s a request on the street to ask for additional support.”

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VanHerck added that Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot MORE “will make a risk assessment” to ultimately decide if Guardsmen will stay and continue the mission or return home.

Thousands of U.S. troops have been deployed to the southern border since late 2018, when the Trump administration sought to tout strengthened national security in the final week before the midterm elections.

At its height, more than 2,500 National Guardsmen and more than 5,800 active-duty troops were stationed along the border.

National Guard have been deployed to the border in the past, but the deployment of active-duty troops broke norms and only happened after then-President TrumpDonald TrumpSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans Navajo Nation president on Arizona's new voting restrictions: An 'assault' on our rights The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez MORE declared a national emergency in 2019 to acquire funding to build a border wall. 

Lawmakers at the time worried the deployments would drain resources from the Pentagon budget and hurt troop readiness, and the Government Accountability Office has since found that the price tag of the deployment from 2018 to 2020 is at least at $841 million.

President Biden has since ended the national emergency, but the Pentagon does not have plans to end the deployment before the approved September end date.

The remaining 3,500 troops perform maintenance and repairs on CBP vehicles and also provide surveillance on the ground and with helicopters, VanHerck said. Any spotted attempts to cross the border are reported to CBP, with the Guardsmen uninvolved with apprehension or detention efforts, he added.