March 22 (UPI) -- The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, warned acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan that deploying Marines to the southern border and reallocating funds to build a border wall poses an "unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency."
Those tasks, which Neller called "unplanned and unbudgeted," forced the Marines to cancel or reduce involvement in several military exercises, the general said. Neller warned Shanahan in recent memos that were obtained by The Los Angeles Times. CNN also reported on the communications.
"The overall impacts of these cancellations and expected cancellations will result in three extremely negative impacts to the joint force," Neller said in the memos. "Marines will not participate in exercises in Indonesia, Scotland, and Mongolia, and will reduce participation in exercises with Australia and the Republic of Korea at a time where we are attempting to double down on strengthening alliances and attracting new partners."
The cost to deploy troops to the border was $130 million in 2018, but the Pentagon has not provided a new cost estimate for 2019.
President Donald Trump called an emergency declaration to reallocate billions of dollars to build the wall on the southern border, bypassing Congress, which refused to fund it. Portions of the money will come from military construction projects. Congress attempted to stop the emergency declaration but Trump issued his first veto last week to sink that resolution.
Neller said this reallocation forced the Marines to delay critical repairs and building projects at bases across the country.
In terms of dollars, relief efforts for Hurricanes Michael and Florence were the costliest, at $3.5 billion, Neller said.
The U.S. Army has also deployed personnel to the southern border and is funding that through its maintenance and operations budget.
Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander said the costs were "not staggering" and that effort was not "hurting our readiness, but it could."