The commandant of the Marines has warned the Pentagon that deployments to the southwest border and funding transfers under the president's emergency declaration, among other unexpected demands, have posed “unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency.”
In two internal memos, Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said the “unplanned/unbudgeted” deployment along the border that President Trump ordered last fall, and shifts of other funds to support border security, had forced him to cancel or reduce planned military training in at least five countries, and delay urgent repairs at bases.
The border deployment and funding transfers, as well as recovery costs from hurricanes Florence and Michael, new housing allowances and civilian pay raises, are taking a toll on combat readiness, Neller wrote to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.
The Times obtained copies of the memos, dated Feb. 19 and March 18.
Neller, a four-star general, said because of the problems, Marines will not participate in planned training exercises in Indonesia, Scotland and Mongolia, and will reduce their participation in joint exercises with Australia and South Korea.
Marines “rely on the hard, realistic training” of the training exercises “to develop the individual and collective skills necessary to prepare for high-end combat,” said Neller, who has been commandant since September 2015.
He complained about canceling or shrinking the Marines’ participation “at a time where we are attempting to double down on strengthening alliances and attracting new partners.”
Shanahan and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to testify Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee. Members are likely to ask about Neller’s concerns.