Acting defense secretary visits the US southern border

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan landed in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday where he will visit troops on the border and sites where the Department of Homeland Security has requested Pentagon assistance to combat drug smuggling.

The Pentagon chief’s visit to El Paso comes as he considers how much military money he should shift to help build President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Shanahan is traveling with Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Claire Grady, the acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, and the generals in charge of Northern Command and the Army Corps of Engineers.

While at the border, Shanahan will view DHS vehicles that senior defense officials say are equipped with sensors and cameras and that will be positioned near “attractive” areas for migrants to cross the border.

The officials will also get an aerial tour of two sites in New Mexico, which the Department of Homeland Security prioritized for construction in a list of projects sent to the Defense Department Friday night to be funded by counter-drug monies, including fencing, lighting, and roads related to drug-smuggling corridors.

Trump recently declared a national emergency on the southern border, gaining access to $2.5 billion of the Pentagon’s drug interdiction program and $3.6 billion in military construction money that could be diverted to the wall. Shanahan will have final say on how much will be taken from which programs.

“The secretary will not use all $3.6 billion if he determines it’s not necessary,” an official told reporters traveling with the acting defense secretary to Texas.

This story has been updated.