Marine general let memos leak to demonstrate border deployment hurt readiness: report

The Marines’ top general allowed the leak of internal Pentagon memos to publicize hardships military families faced during the deployment of troops to the southern border, according to a Newsweek report.

Marine Corp Commandant Gen. Robert Neller allowed two Defense Department memos to leak to NBC News and the Los Angeles Times in the past two weeks, Newsweek reported, citing two Pentagon sources.

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In the documents, Neller describes unplanned service spending bills, including for the border deployment, forcing him to cancel or scale back planned training exercises, including the Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) for II Marine Expeditionary Force, which was canceled outright, and Exercises Northern Edge, a joint exercise between the Marines and allied partners aimed at preparing for conflict in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, which was “significantly reduced,” according to the report. 

“The combat readiness of II Marine Expeditionary Force—1/3 the combat power of the Marine Corps—is degraded and will continue to degrade given current conditions,” Neller wrote in the memos.

The letter leaked to NBC also describes the slow pace of funding for repairs to Camp Lejeune, which was affected by Hurricane Florence last year. Neller told Navy Secretary Richard Spencer the total damage to the base was estimated at $3.5 billion, including $1.3 billion in building repairs and $1.7 billion in building replacements, with the remaining $500 million for operations and maintenance costs.

The Hill has reached out to the Marine Corps for comment.

Last week, the Pentagon moved ahead with plans to transfer $1 billion from its accounts toward construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The transfer followed a letter by Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), chair of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, denying the transfer.

“These funds were neither requested nor appropriated for the activities described in the reprogramming,” Visclosky wrote.