US taxpayers will pay $72 million to deploy active duty troops to the southern border with Mexico in order to fulfill President Donald Trump's directive that the Pentagon reinforce border personnel readying for the arrival of Central American migrants.
The Pentagon said Tuesday the $72 million price tag covers the cost of deploying the approximately 5,900 active duty troops until December 15 and will increase the longer the troops are deployed.
Trump has said he will deploy as many as 15,000 troops if needed to push back against a group of migrants who are planning on asking for asylum. On Tuesday, Trump told reporters that the troops "are proud to be on the border. They are proud to be defending our nation. And we are not letting people in."
Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a statement that "based on the current phased force laydown of approximately 5,900 Active Component personnel through December 15, 2018, the estimated cost to deploy, operate, sustain, and redeploy forces is approximately $72 million."
"This estimate includes only those DoD forces and support requested and approved as of 19 November 2018," he added.
A defense official told CNN that lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been briefed on the cost estimate.
According to the Pentagon's estimate, which has been obtained by CNN, $19 million is to cover personnel costs, $20 million is for transportation costs, $28 million is for "operating expenses" and $5 million is for border fortification and barrier material.
Manning said Monday that 11,426 meters of wire obstacles had been placed in Texas, 2,714 meters had been put up in Arizona and 4,145 meters had been erected in California.
The $72 million estimate does not cover the cost of the National Guard deployment that Trump previously ordered to help protect the southern border. The Pentagon estimates that the cost of that deployment, which includes some 2,100 National Guard personnel and 17 aircraft, is $138 million to date.
Of the 5,900 active duty troops assigned to the mission approximately 2,800 in Texas, 1,500 in Arizona and 1,500 in California.
Earlier on Tuesday, US Northern Command, which is overseeing the border mission, issued a statement saying they "are continually assessing our resources and refining requirements in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security."
"We may shift some forces to other areas of the border to engineering support missions in California and other areas. No specific timeline for redeployment has been determined. We will provide more details as they become available," the statement added.
Under the current plan, the border mission is scheduled to end December 15th. Military officials have previously indicated that troops involved in building bases and other infrastructure could be coming home before that.