Durbin Questions Defense Secretary On DOD Involvement At The Southwest Border

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, today questioned Patrick Shanahan, Acting Secretary of Defense, and General Joseph Dunford, Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the continued use of Department of Defense (DoD) funding and personnel at our southern border.  In today’s hearing, Durbin pressed Acting Secretary Shanahan on why there is no money appropriated in the fiscal year 2020 budget when it comes to the southwest border mission.  There are currently 2,878 active duty troops and 1,981 Guardsmen on the border.

“We just received last week a supplemental funding request of $377 million to pay for the last year’s involvement of the Department of Defense in the southwest border mission.  It is very clear that this mission is going to continue into the next fiscal year,” Durbin said.  “So why is there nothing in the President’s budget request to continue funding this mission?”

Acting Secretary Shanahan admitted that the Department of Defense does not have a formal plan for this mission.

Video of Durbin’s remarks in Committee are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin also pressed Acting Secretary Shanahan on the Administration’s proposal to create Space Force.  DoD has transmitted a legislative proposal to establish a Space Force next year, but has been unable to provide an estimate of how many military positions would be transferred to the Space Force.

“Why does it make more sense to establish a $2 billion Space Force bureaucracy within the Air Force or separate from it?  Would it be a better use of taxpayer dollars to invest that funding into new satellites, new rockets, and new ideas?” Durbin asked.

In March, following notification from the Department of Defense that it transferred $1 billion in military personnel funding to the Drug Interdiction and Counter-narcotics Activities account to be used to build part of President Trump’s wall on the southwest border, Durbin pressed the Department of Defense for information on how this transfer will impact military readiness initiatives this year.

Durbin has also asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for a legal opinion on the authorities of the Department of Defense to transfer funds to build a border wall without the express approval of Congress.