(CNSNews.com) - Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the Pentagon plans to withdraw between 30 and 40 percent of the 6,000 troops on the southern border within the next month, leaving about 3,000 to 4,000.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked Shanahan, “So you testified Mr. Secretary that there are 6,000 troops currently deployed at our southern border. Can you tell us how long they are going to be there?”
“I’d say 30 or 40 percent of them will be departing in the next month or so when they complete some of their work, and I believe we’ll probably draw down to between 3,000 and 4,000,” Shanahan said.
“Is it something that the president is indicating to you, or can he say that I want you all to remain at the border?” Hirono asked.
“No, this was part of the tasking from the Department of Homeland Security and based on their request to us--” Shanahan replied.
“From the president?” Hirono asked.
“From the department,” Shanahan said.
Hirono then questioned Shanahan about the decision to save more than $3 billion over five years by not refueling the Truman.
HIRONO: Let me get on to a matter that is of great concern to a lot of us actually. Secretary Shanahan, in your response to Senator Inhofe’s question about refueling the Truman, you stated that growing the workforce in the shipyard is a priority and the move to not refuel the Truman would save $3.4 billion over five years, and how does cancelling three years of shipyard work grow the workforce there?
SHANAHAN: The workforce, when we look at what was in the shipyard so the combination of submarines, nuke carriers and then maintenance, all that is done in the same shipyards, and that workforce moves from project to project, so when we look at the total employment goes up over a period of time in which we’re building the two carriers.
HIRONO: Frankly, as I talk with some of the people from the shipyards, I’m not so sure that that is the case, and it’ll cost about $3.4 billion to refuel the Truman, which by the way by not refueling, we’re only getting about 50 percent of the Truman’s service life, so at the same time, there’s $3.6 billion in the emergency fund, which you acknowledge is going to be set aside.
Hirono asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford whether it makes sense for the military to set aside $3 billion as outlined in the president’s budget proposal for the border wall, when the military could use the money to keep the vessel fueled and thereby extend the vessel’s shelf life.
HIRONO: You want us to authorize setting that aside for the wall, so doesn’t it make sense - maybe I should ask this of General Dunford - that we should use the money from the emergency funding that you’re requesting us to set aside for the wall for something, ie., the refueling of the Truman, that actually fits with the NDS and that your combatant commanders want. General Dunford, would you like to respond?
DUNFORD: Senator, I would, and I’m not trying to be evasive, but I think my responsibility is to identify for the secretary the priorities within our top line, not to identify what the top line is and not to identify how the money within the total top line ought to be allocated.
HIRONO: I would say probably if you all had your druthers, if you could get some money to refuel the Truman, you would do so, wouldn’t you?
DUNFORD: Again, if I look at a military dimensional loan, that would be true, but I have to acknowledge that the secretary and the president have broader responsibilities than I do.
HIRONO: Yes, like building a vanity wall.