Under pointed questioning from senators, the top US general for homeland defense said Tuesday that he sees no military threat coming from the southern border with Mexico, but his focus is on "very real" threats from China and Russia in the north. Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander, US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, told a Senate committee that proposed barriers along the US-Mexico border could increase security against any potential military threats coming from the south, the AP reports. But he said Russia's advancements in training and capabilities, and its intent to hold the US at risk, present an urgent threat. President Trump has declared a national emergency along the southern border to fund his proposed wall, and he plans to use Defense Department funds from military construction and counter-drug programs to pay for it. Members of Congress are challenging that.
Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee peppered O'Shaughnessy with questions about diverting the money from existing projects and questioned the validity of a national emergency declaration. "I'm concerned, very frankly, that this administration is politicizing our military and militarizing our immigration policy—in effect, using the troops under your command as political props, both in terms of declaring a fake emergency but also compromising our potential security by diverting them away from other assignments and missions that are absolutely necessary," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Sen. Tim Kaine questioned whether Congress should allow Trump to use Pentagon money for a non-defense emergency. "The threat isn't military, and still we'll take $6 billion out of the defense budget to deal with it?" Kaine said. "If we set that precedent, I certainly can foresee a day when a president is going to say 40,000 gun deaths a year are an emergency, and why don't we take money out of the Pentagon budget to deal with that?" (Nearly 60 former US security officials weigh in on Trump's "emergency.")