By Jack Phillips
The Pentagon was asked by the Department of Homeland Security to fund the construction of about 270 miles of border wall in 2020 to counter drug smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border, officials told reporters on Thursday.
The request came in on Wednesday and the Department of Defense (DoD) will ascertain how much will be allotted to Homeland Security, DoD officials told The Associated Press, Reuters, and other news outlets. They did not say how much it would cost, and an official told Reuters that it would take about two weeks to review the request.
So far, President Donald Trump’s administration has constructed approximately 100 miles of his signature border wall, with much of it replacing existing fencing. He and other federal officials have promised to construct more than 400 miles along the border.
“Sometimes when we get these areas, they’re not constructable or it’s difficult to do that at certain points,” an official told Reuters. “Then funding decisions are assessed simultaneous with that.”
At the same time, it’s not clear exactly when the wall construction would begin. Any funding for the plan would have to be spent by Sept. 30, which is when the fiscal year ends, the official remarked.
Top military leaders would then review the potential impact on the DoD before a final decision is rendered by Secretary Mark Esper, an official told AP.
The officials also told the news agency that the money allocated for countering drug smuggling can be used at the border since Homeland Security, which oversees the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has certified it as a drug-smuggling corridor.
“On January 15, 2020, the Department of Defense received a request from the Department of Homeland Security requesting DoD assistance in blocking up to 13 specific drug-smuggling corridors on Federal land along the southern border of the United States,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell told CNN Thursday. He did not elaborate on the wall or its length in the statement to CNN.
“The Department is evaluating this request and appropriate DoD officials will make recommendations to the Secretary in the near future,” Mitchell confirmed.
Earlier this week, in addressing unconfirmed reports about money being transferred by the DoD to fund the wall, Esper said the Pentagon is ready to provide financial support to the barrier.
“The first priority of DOD is protection of the homeland. So the … southwest border is a security issue, and so we’ll see how things play out, but we remain committed to supporting the Department of Homeland Security in its mission,” he said, according to a transcript on Tuesday. When he was asked if that includes financial support, Esper said, “If that’s what it takes, we are prepared to support.”
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