Leading Defense Subcommittee Hearing, Tester Presses Top Military Brass on Securing the Southern Border: “It’s not sustainable at all and it’s unacceptable”

Senator to Defense Secretary Austin: “Do you agree with my perspective that the Administration needs to do more secure the border, and we shouldn’t have to depend upon the military to do that?”

As a part of his continued efforts to keep Montana and our nation safe, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today chaired a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing where he pressed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the Biden Administration’s failure to secure the southern border.

During his remarks, Tester stressed that he has made it clear to the Administration that what’s happening at the southern border is unacceptable: “Look, I’ve repeatedly called upon Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden and Congress to step up and fix what’s going on at the southern border. It’s not sustainable at all and it’s unacceptable.”

Tester asked Defense Secretary Austin how many troops are currently deployed at the southern border and what impact that has operationally on our military: “DHS continues to rely on DOD support at the southern border to make sure that they’re doing what they can do. But once again, I don’t see any funding in this budget for DOD personnel for those operations. So, Mr. Secretary, a couple things. Number one, how many troops are serving currently on the southern border? … And what does that mean operationally, who gets shorted?”

Tester then directly pressed Defense Secretary Austin on whether he agrees that the Biden Administration must do more to secure the southern border: “Mr. Secretary, do you agree with my perspective that the Administration needs to do more secure the border and we shouldn’t have to depend upon the military to do that?”

Later during his questioning, Tester also pressed Secretary Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. C.Q. Brown for a timeline on construction of the Sentinel Project in Great Falls and criticized the lack of urgency on the project: “You guys have educated me very, very well on what’s going on in this world and why this is a dangerous time. Yet, I don’t get the sense of urgency on Sentinel, particularly with the ground-based missiles that we have… General Brown, can you give me… any idea on if I should be concerned about the timeline continuing to slip on the ground based nuclear missile Sentinel project that I think is critically important as a deterrent moving forward in this world in the 21st century?”

Tester has led the charge to secure the southern border and stop the deadly flow of fentanyl that is wreaking havoc on Montana. He has repeatedly expressed to Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden that the Administration must do more and “use all of the remaining tools at your disposal” to secure our borders. Tester voted to secure the southern border in February – but politicians in Congress blocked the bipartisan border security legislation. 

As the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Tester is responsible for crafting the annual Defense Appropriations bill which will provide funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and related activities in FY25. Earlier this year Tester successfully passed his annual Defense Appropriations bill into law which will fund the DOD and related activities in FY24. Tester’s FY24 bill prepares our military against our adversaries and ensures America retains its competitive edge over China while using made-in-Montana cutting-edge solutions and next-generation research. As part of Tester’s FY24 bill, he secured an additional $200 million in investments in the supply chain, industrial base, and workforce for the Sentinel program.

Tester has long been a champion for the Sentinel program’s replacement of ICBMs with the Sentinel Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and has repeatedly pushed DOD to take necessary steps to keep Malmstrom’s ICBM replacement on track. Last week, Tester grilled United States Air Force (USAF) leadership during a committee hearing on a timeline for beginning construction on the Sentinel Project in Great Falls.