Ernst defends troop deployment to border as good "real-life training"

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa is defending President Trump's deployment of thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, saying the move will give soldiers good practice and training for when they are fighting overseas.

"If they are active duty soldiers it does actually provide them an opportunity for real-life training in their roles," Ernst, a veteran and a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "Many of them, if they serve in logistics-type positions, they will actually be doing those missions on the border. So it is a very good skill."

Ernst was elected vice chair of the Republican Senate Conference this week, becoming the first woman in nearly a decade to serve in the Senate GOP leadership.  

Transcript: Sen. Joni Ernst on "Face the Nation," Nov. 18, 2018

The deployment of 5,000 troops currently on the border has been panned by Democrats as a waste of resources costing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Ernst said the mission is worth the cost.

"Like I said, many of them may be logistics professionals serving in our armed services," Ernst said. "And then it gives them greater opportunity to respond quickly in those types of situations, whether they are supporting with food or body armor, whatever it might be for Border Patrol agents. It allows those Border Patrol agents to actually focus on the law enforcement duties."

On "Face the Nation," Ernst said she thought Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was doing a good job, but said President Trump has the final call about whether she remains in her position. Sources familiar with the president's thinking said this week Nielsen is destined to leave the administration, but the timing remains unclear.

Ernst also said she is "hopeful" another subsidy program for farmers hit hard by tariffs will not be needed. "Our farmers would much rather grow their goods and make sure that they are getting out to the rest of the world," she said.