Trump Says Up to 4,000 National Guard Troops May Head to Border

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said his plan to protect the southern U.S. border may require deploying as many as 4,000 National Guard troops until his long-sought border wall is built, though his top aides say that many key details about the proposal remain unresolved.

“Anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000,” National Guard troops will be sent to the border, Trump said Thursday aboard Air Force One after a trip to West Virginia. “I have a pretty good idea” what the plan will cost, but he declined to give further details.

Trump on Wednesday signed a presidential memorandum authorizing the deployment, saying that the nation’s security was under threat from “drastic illegal activity,” including drug smuggling. He also cited the threat of gangs, including MS-13.

“The situation at the border has now reached a point of crisis,” Trump said in the memorandum. “The lawlessness that continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security, and sovereignty of the American people. My administration has no choice but to act.”

Few Details

But the lack of details in the plan in the aftermath of Trump’s decision appeared to be a hurdle for officials at the Homeland Security Department and Pentagon. Neither agency could say on Thursday whether National Guard troops would be armed. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen suggested the forces would have more of a support function, including aviation, medical attention for people apprehended and auto mechanics.

“The idea here is to choose different mission steps the NG can perform to help our border patrol,” she said. “We’ve started the negotiations. I’ve spoken to all the governors and I’ll speak with them again today.”

The list of governors she spoke to yesterday included California’s Jerry Brown, and she plans to speak with him again today, she said. She deferred when asked if she’ll send another state’s guard troops to California if Brown, a Democrat and outspoken Trump opponent, refuses to mobilize his own.

“I spoke to him yesterday and we sent him some information in regard to our best advice as to how we could use the guard to best support our mission,” she said. “I will be speaking with the governor again today. He has supported such use in support of the border patrol in the past.”

Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said the department is creating a new group to help coordinate activities between the Pentagon and Homeland Security. One area where the department could provide additional border security, she said, is at a military facility that buttresses the Mexican border.

The facility, the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, is a bombing range.

“There is -- there is already some fencing there, but it has been identified as a possibility to reinforce it,” White said. “So that’s what we’re looking at.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.