The BL News—Defense officials tour U.S. Mexico border
Defense officials tour U.S. Mexico border
Top defense officials toured sections of the U.S.-Mexico border Saturday to see how the military could reinforce efforts to block drug smuggling and other illegal activity, as the Pentagon seek to divert billions of dollars for stronger border security solutions.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, accompanied by the Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Joseph Dunford, was visiting a border site near El Paso, Texas, called Monument Site 3 where a stretch of 18-foot border wall stands atop a huge landfill.
Shanahan and Dunford got an up-close look at U.S. Border Patrol vehicles used for surveillance. The Department of Homeland Security has requested Pentagon help in operating about 150 of the vehicle-mounted surveillance cameras, which can see as far as eight miles away.
Later, the officials planned to fly over two border control sites farther west. These sites are on a list of high-priority projects DHS submitted to Shanahan on Friday to support its request for money to pay for construction of roads, replacement of vehicle barriers and dilapidated pedestrian fencing, and installation of lighting.
One such project proposed by DHS, dubbed "El Paso Project 1," includes segments of border west of El Paso, in Luna and Dona Ana counties, New Mexico. This is among areas DHS cites as known drug smuggling corridors used by Mexican cartels.
These projects are separate from, but related to, those which Shanahan is expected to pay for by diverting money that Congress appropriated for military construction projects. This could total as much as $3.6 billion, although Shanahan has not yet determined that the diversion is justified. His visit Saturday was meant to help him decide whether to approve such spending.
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