By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Remember the migrant march through Mexico to the US border?

It was topic number one for President Trump during the final weeks of the midterm election campaign, climaxing with a White House order of troops to the border just days before the vote.

“You look at what’s marching up, that’s an invasion!” said Mr. Trump at one pre-election rally.

Pentagon officials initially rejected a White House request for troops to provide law enforcement at the border, an assignment beyond their legal authority. When the mission was changed to providing logistical support for border control authorities, they okayed it.

But that still leaves open a multi-million-dollar question – was this deployment wise, or a big waste of taxpayer money?

More than 5,000 troops have come to the border, and the president says their ranks may swell to 15,000 by the time the Central American migrants fleeing crime, abuse and poverty reach them.

Meanwhile, the debate rages on – is all this an election-year political stunt aimed at scaring voters?

Defense secretary James Mattis says no: “we don’t do stunts in this department.” Others have their doubts.

But one thing is beyond debate – this controversial deployment is costing the taxpayers millions.

The independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates up to $143 a day per troop to sustain the operation. Military aircraft could potentially cost an extra $136,000 per day. The Pentagon hasn’t issued an official price tag yet, but informed cost estimates of a full deployment run as high as $220 million.

There’s no question the Border Patrol has its hands full with the nearly 2,000 people a day they claim are showing up at the border. But with the military barred by law from any direct involvement in detaining migrants, critics like Army General (Ret.) Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are flatly calling this a “wasteful deployment.”

Democrats in Congress are demanding a detailed cost-accounting from the Pentagon.

But with the bulk of the migrants expected to reach the border in a matter of weeks, we’ll soon see if this deployment was warranted, or just politically-motivated waste.

If you see government spending that seems wasteful, don’t get mad, get busy and let me know about it via email at, or reach out on Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

We’ll look into it for a possible future “What a Waste” story.

Jon Keller

Comments (6)
  1. Jordan Lewis Ring says:


  2. Sean O'Reilly says:

    Well, when you take 5 deferments to avoid serving, and shun the company and council of others a mixed foursome for the back nine looks like an invasion. That said, our American troops are buttons. push the button and it expends a certain amount of energy to go and accomplish the task at hand. Personally, I think it’s an unnecessary waste of resources that will take these troops away from thier families at Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas as well. But that’s what we sign up for. So, whether or not you believe this is another 50m waste of tax payer $. Keep them in mind when you tuck In this holiday season. They are eating MRE’s so you and Tom Turkey can get up close and personal.
    Thank you, US forces!

    1. Illegals invaders now cost the American taxpayer $ 338 Billion per year. The more invaders we take in the price goes up & up. This is a plan by the Anti- American Left ,UN . Fake lying News Media with Leftist So-Called Church groups. To Destroy America with Millions of Freeloader illegals ,mostly men of military age. If this is not stopped now , the plan by these Communist is to flood the U.S.A. with as many as 200 million or more invaders, And combine Mexico ,Canada & U.S.A. into one country full of poor worker slaves for the No Borders , New World Order. Our Life as we now have, will be gone along with our Constitution , 2nd Amendment , Sovereignty, Freedom ,Etc. MAGA President Trump !!!

    2. Steve Burnett says:

      Sonny, You are gonna hate this! Deal with it. As for the “five deferments”; from 1964 until 1968, Mr. Trump, as well as former President Clinton, were full time students at university. They were granted, not asked for but granted, 2-S deferments, as were millions of other American males. From LBJ (D-TX) lying his arse off about the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, until December 1969, there was NO National draft taking place. ALL Notices to Report originated at the LOCAL level, based on how many bodies DOD claimed to need in any given month. Mr. Trump was residing in Queens, a Borough of NYC with roughly two bazillion draft age males, 26, then younger. Pretty good odds there. When the first National draft since 1942 took place, it eliminated the previous policy of “draft the oldest man first”, and replaced it with a lottery based on DOB. Mt. Trump was assigned number 356. Mr. Clinton was assigned a number in the mid-330’s. A second component of the lottery was the Administrative Cutoff, whereby if your number was higher, you would NOT be called up. In this case, cutoff was 195. So how in the actual f*ck, did President Trump “dodge the draft”? And you KNOW I am pulling all this out my arse? Sorry Charlie, read’em and weep… I did my time with USMC, 1971-1977, my oldest Son is currently in TX. And whether he is deployed to the border or not, he STILL gets paid, as do every other troop there. Nice try, though…

  3. Allen Blaine says:

    This article is way off base. (No pun intended). I am a Vietnam veteran. No matter where we were or how long we were there, we are on the payroll 24/7. So where does the extra expense come in that this article is lying about? The American people are not stupid. No matter where the troops are sent, they are on the payroll 24/7. Then there is the simple fact that the military is to protect our borders. That is a primary duty of the military. This kind of reporting is what is dividing this nation. Trump is correct, the conspiracy news media is the enemy of the American people, H E L L bent on destroying this nation.

  4. Sharon Carlson says:

    The troops receive a salary if at the border here or deployed elsewhere.therefore I don’t understand why anyone should object.protect the border now, before its too !ate !

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