- The head of the Marine Corps told the acting secretary of defence and the secretary of the Navy that border deployments and other unplanned expenses were hurting combat readiness.
- Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller stressed that these unplanned costs pose an “unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency.”
- He said the Corps might be forced to cancel or limit its participation in several planned activities, including exercises meant to strengthen alliances and improve the Corps’ capabilities.
President Donald Trump’s decision to send troops to the southern border and funding transfers following the declaration of a national emergency pose an “unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency,” the Marine Corps commandant warned this week.
An internal memo sent this week by Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller to Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan listed “unplanned/unbudgeted southwest border operations” and “border security funding transfers” alongside Hurricanes Florence and Michael as “negative factors” putting readiness at risk, the Los Angeles Times first reported.
The four-star general explained that due to a number of unexpected costs, referred to as “negative impacts,” the Marines will be forced to cancel or limit their participation in a number of previously planned activities, including training exercises in at least five countries.
He warned that the cancelled training exercises will “degrade the combat readiness and effectiveness of the Marine Corps,” adding that “Marines rely on the hard, realistic training provided by these events to develop the individual and collective skills necessary to prepare for high-end combat.”
Neller further argued that cancellations or reduced participation would hurt the Corps’ ties to US allies and partners at a critical time.
Border security is listed among several factors, such as new housing allowances and civilian pay raises, that could trigger a budget shortfall for the Marine Corps, but it is noteworthy that the commandant identified a presidential priority as a detriment to the service.
In a separate memo, Neller explained that the Marines are currently short $US1.3 billion for hurricane recovery operations.
“The hurricane season is only three months away, and we have Marines, Sailors, and civilians working in compromised structures,” he wrote.
The Pentagon sent a list of military construction projects that could lose their funding to cover the cost of the president’s border wall to Congress on Monday. Among the 400 projects that could be affected were funds for Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, both of which suffered hurricane damage last year.
Congress voted last week to cancel Trump’s national emergency, but the president quickly vetoed the legislation.
Critics have argued that the president’s deployment of active-duty troops to the border, as well as plans to cut funding for military projects, are unnecessary and will harm military readiness.
In October, more than 5,000 active-duty troops joined the more than 2,000 National Guard troops already at the southern border.
The deployment, a response to migrant caravans from Central America, was initially set to end in mid-December, but it has since been extended until at least September of this year. As of January, border operations have already cost the military $US230 million, and that figure is expected to grow throughout the year.
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