The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Inspector General (IG) concluded that President Trump’s deployment of active-duty military personnel to the southern border to support another federal agency was lawful, according to a report published on August 14, 2020.
The report was produced in response to criticism from some lawmakers who requested the DOD watchdog to evaluate the legality of mobilizing thousands of troops to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its security initiatives at the U.S.-Mexico border. The IG’s report focused on the period from October 2018 — when the mission began — to December 2019.
The IG examined a wide range of issues such as the training that troops received and funding of the mission under the statutes that set out permitted uses of military personnel in the United States. According to the report, the deployment was consistent with DOD policies and fully complied with federal law.
The IG found that the troops performed tasks within the parameters of four approved missions: medical support, engineering support, surveillance and monitoring support, and protection of DHS personnel. The IG stated that the U.S. military’s activities did not violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars active-duty troops from carrying out law enforcement duties. Additionally, the report determined that the troops received adequate training on use of force and had “limited contact with civilians or migrants.”
Although the DOD’s use of active-duty troops and funding for the mission were deemed lawful, the IG issued several recommendations. Among them were providing troops with enhanced use-of-force training prior to deployment so that they better understand how to engage with civilians at the southern border and creating documentation protocols to keep track of completed training. The troops are authorized to remain at the border through September 30, 2021.