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Guard Battles Growing Border Deployment Costs

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U.S. Army
Thursday, April 11, 2019

The National Guard needs help from Congress so ongoing border deployments don’t leave it short of money for training, a top Guard official told lawmakers.

“We’re using training dollars to do this,” Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense. He said the Guard faces a $190 million shortfall.

Lengyel said the projected deployment cost is about $247 million, and the Guard is likely to meet it. If the money isn’t found by the end of the year, it could impact troops’ normal training schedules, he said.

“If we don’t reprogram funds back into our training accounts, we will have to make modifications within our current appropriation,” Lengyel said, citing reduced training opportunities or canceled drill weekends. While one drill weekend for the Guard costs roughly $100 million, canceling them will impact readiness, he said.

“Our hope is that the department finds funds available inside the department that are reallocatable to that so we don’t have to do that,” Lengyel said.

A loophole in the department’s ability to move funds may allow for some flexibility for the Guard. DoD can move up to $4 billion of its base budget and $2 billion of its warfighting funds between accounts in a single fiscal year without an act of Congress.  

Lengyel confirmed that no additional funding for border deployments has been requested in next year’s budget, leaving the possibility for money to be reprogrammed again if the deployments continue. 

More than 2,000 National Guard troops are currently supporting the border mission, a number Lengyel anticipates will stay the same for the remainder of the year.