Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security wants troops to stay at the southern border of the United States for the next three to five years, officials told the Government Accountability Office during a review of its role in the region.
The GAO's report examines the military's role in security operations at the U.S.-Mexico border, which the Department of Defense has provided on and off for the last 19 years.
The GAO's report, which was first reported on by Stars & Stripes, recommended the DoD improve its process for requesting assistance in order to more realistically estimate costs of the mission.
For example, the cost of troop presence at the border between April 2018 -- when President Donald Trump increased the presence of troops at the border to apprehend people without documents -- to September 2020 was nearly $1 billion.
Currently there are about 3,600 troops serving at the border in support of Border Patrol, according to the Defense Department, and the ongoing mission is approved through Sept. 30, which is the end of fiscal year 2021.
The Pentagon has told the GAO that the department would prefer "to provide temporary assistance until DHS can independently execute its border security mission."
Defense Department officials agreed with the GAO's recommendation to file requests on time, but disagreed with the other six recommendations, including the recommendation that each department's officials work together to define a common outcome for future support.
The Pentagon said such an agreement would "represent a more permanent and enduring commitment of its resources and may create an impression that DOD has a border security mission, among other things."