WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security has requested more U.S. troops to be deployed at the Mexican border to add 160 miles of concertina wire on top of existing border fencing, according to three U.S. officials.
If approved by Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, the addition of troops to enhance the fencing could extend the military's current deployment at the border until the end of September, based on the rate of construction, according to two officials. The military mission, which began two months ago, was set to end on Jan. 31.
The fencing that is to be reinforced with concertina wire is not new. The troops currently deployed at the border have already added concertina wire at ports of entry in Arizona, Texas and California.
Construction of new barriers at the border remains a matter of debate between President Trump and Democrats in Congress. The president has refused to approve any spending bill that does not include funds for a wall, which has led to the partial shutdown of the government.
DHS is requesting more military engineers to install the concertina wire, more aviation support to move troops around the area, medical personnel and surveillance equipment, according to two sources.
If the request is approved, the Pentagon will decide how many troops to send and whether they will be active duty or National Guard troops.
The details of who will be deployed and exactly how long they will stay will be discussed at a Friday meeting between DHS and Defense Department officials, according to two sources.
Acting Secretary Shanahan spoke about the "restoration of the fences," and "building out of additional mileage for the wall" during a Cabinet meeting at the White House Wednesday. "The threat is real. The risks are real. We need to control our borders," Shanahan said, adding, "we're doing additional planning to strengthen the support that we're providing to [DHS Secretary] Kirstjen [Nielsen] and her team."