A day after President Trump introduced his fiscal budget proposal, with plans to pull $7.2 billion from the Pentagon's coffers to fund the border wall, the U.S. Army Secretary says he supports the mission.
Sec. Ryan McCarthy, a former Army Ranger and Lockheed Martin executive, told Cheddar in an interview on Tuesday that "the border wall is a national security issue." McCarthy said the increased presence of soldiers on the border, along with the newly constructed parts of the wall, have already led to a drop in illegal crossings.
While crossings have dropped substantially since last spring, some critics claim it has more to do with the White House all but cutting off asylum applications in the U.S. So far, according to the CBP's own figures, the vast majority of the wall that has been constructed under the Trump administration was replacement of existing structures.
The administration's budget ー a document that will be dead on arrival in Congress but signals the president's priorities if he were to be reelectedー includes cuts to the Army's top line, though it does substantially increase R&D spending at the Pentagon that will presumably be used to help restructure and modernize the armed forces.
"The Army is in the midst of a major transformation over the last three years," McCarthy said. One of the goals of that modernization is to improve recruitment with a plan to aggressively increase talent drives in 22 major cities. "It's been a challenge," McCarthy conceded, acknowledging that the tight labor market has made the Army's job harder in getting top candidates to sign up.
One of the ways to encourage job-seekers to consider military service, he said, is to highlight the "variety of career paths" available and the Army's generous tuition assistance perks.
"We have to be ready to meet national objectives every moment of every day," he said.