By Jon Dougherty
If you still wondered what kind of opposition POTUS Donald Trump faces on a daily basis to any and all of his efforts to staunch the flow of illegal immigration and regain operational control over our southwest border, this will serve as just the latest example.
In a highly improper and extremely controversial move, the Marine Corps’ top commander, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller, let a pair of internal memos leak to NBC News and the Los Angeles Times in an attempt to embarrass his commander-in-chief over is decision to shift some Pentagon funding to border wall construction, Newsweek is reporting.
In particular, Neller is upset that funding to repair one of the service’s two primary training bases, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, following Hurricane Florence — which damaged more than 900 buildings at the base — still hasn’t arrived six months later.
The Marines’ top general allowed internal memos to leak out of the Pentagon to bring attention to service families living among hurricane-ravaged military installations as the Trump administration tries to bankroll the southwest border with defense funds at the expense of combat readiness.
The letters underscore the fiscal challenges the service is facing as it struggles to support security operations at the southwest border while “unplanned/unbudgeted” line items plague the general’s fiscal agenda, a burden Neller asserts is an “unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency.”
When asked why Neller would allow internal memorandums to leak to press outlets, one Defense Department source expressed bluntly, “Because he didn’t want the Marines and families at Camp Lejeune [in North Carolina] to get f***ed.”
In his letters, Neller — who is set to retire by the end of this year — lamented what he said were unexpected spending requirements that included money for the president’s southwest border operations that left him no choice but to cancel major training evolutions.
For instance, Neller canceled the Integrated Training Exercise, known to Marines as ITX, for II Marine Expeditionary Force, a large combined-arms training exercise in the Mojave Desert at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Exercises Northern Edge, the service’s joint exercise with allied partners which prepares forces for combat operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, were greatly reduced as well, while other drills were canceled or scaled-back, Newsweek added.
“The combat readiness of II Marine Expeditionary Force—1/3 the combat power of the Marine Corps—is degraded and will continue to degrade given current conditions,” Neller wrote in the letters obtained by Newsweek and first reported by The Los Angeles Times.
The magazine pointed out that the president’s border operations were just one of the unexpected expenses that Neller was citing; the report did not name the others, indicating that Newsweek only wanted to emphasize opposition to POTUS’ border control efforts.
Proof: Newsweek also previously reported that some senior-level officers at the Pentagon said they believed that Trump’s decision last fall to deploy U.S. troops to the border to support Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection agents as they dealt with a surge of thousands of migrants was ‘politically motivated.’ because it came right before the 2018 midterm elections:
Newsweek previously reported that Trump took Defense Department officials by surprise when he first ordered U.S. troops to the southwest border last fall. Senior-level officers at the Pentagon said they believed the president’s move was politically motivated, due to the mobilization of military units coming less than a week before the midterm elections.
Pentagon officials speaking to Newsweek last year ridiculed the deployments as a significant waste of taxpayer dollars with the operations themselves running counter to military readiness.
News of Neller’s letters gave Democrats on Capitol Hill ammo they needed to push back against POTUS Trump’s decision to shift funds to help build the border wall:
Congressional Democrats in the House repeatedly cited Neller’s letters last week on Capitol Hill as Pentagon officials rolled out the Defense Department’s budget for fiscal year 2020. Lawmakers used the memos to reinforce their arguments against shifting Defense Department funds to aid in the construction of President Donald Trump’s border wall.
It’s not clear why the Pentagon hasn’t released funds to begin repairs at Camp Lejeune, but it’s a safe bet that it isn’t President Trump’s fault.
For those who have never been in the military, it’s highly improper for personnel — especially a ranking officer — to disparage the commander-in-chief, even anonymously, and even if you disagree with him. The CinC issues the orders, the officers relay those orders to the appropriate units, and the units carry them out without hesitation and without ‘feedback.’
To complain about his orders from the president in the manner such as Neller did is, under normal circumstances, is career-ending. But perhaps that was Neller’s objective, given that he ‘allowed’ his memos to leak.
In any event, this shows once again the massive opposition the president faces in ‘official’ Washington regarding his efforts — conventional and unconventional — to staunch the flow of illegal aliens into the United States.
It’s a shame that a distinguished, long-serving Marine general would publicly question the primary duty of both himself and the commander-in-chief: Protecting and defending U.S. borders.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10