Top Marine general warns border deployment and recent hurricanes could impact "combat readiness"

Top general warns about "combat readiness"

The top Marine general issued a warning Thursday saying combat readiness has been hurt, in part by troop deployment at the southern border, as well as two recent hurricanes. The memo from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller lists nine factors posing "unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency."

Two of them involve President Trump's use of the military to clamp down on illegal immigration, sending troops to the border and building the wall. Neller's biggest problem is $3.5 billion in damages to Marine bases from Hurricanes Florence and Michael. But the emergency declared by his commander in chief has made it worse.  

Last month, when the president declared the emergency, empowering him to use $7 billion from the Pentagon budget to pay for the wall, he said the generals he consulted did not raise any objections.

"They think this is far more important than what they were going to use it for. I said, 'What were you going to use it for?' And I won't go into details but it didn't sound too important to me," he said.

The Marines, which are the smallest service, would probably lose the least amount of money. But in his memo, Neller said he already has been forced to cancel or scale back Marine participation in four exercises, as well as reduce maintenance for combat equipment.

He warned the lost training "will degrade the combat readiness and effectiveness of the Marine Corps" as well as have "negative impacts" on other countries who are scheduled to take part in those exercises.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.