The Border Is a National Security Issue. Let’s Treat It Like One

Senate Passed National Defense Bill and That Should Help Make Biden Fix the Border

September 25, 2023

President Joe Biden apparently has no shame when it comes to border security. Illegal crossings are rising, and fentanyl is claiming the lives of more Americans. Our adversaries are exploiting the porous southern border to funnel criminals and even suspected terrorists into our country. But the president is asleep at the wheel.

Take, for instance, Biden’s treatment of Trump-era border wall materials. Instead of using the high-quality steel panels that taxpayers purchased to build the wall, the president has been paying millions to rent storage space for them. He is so hostile to border security that he would rather spend money to keep construction paused rather than fix or extend the existing barrier.

The information that I have uncovered exposes the fact that his administration has begun auctioning the materials for pennies on the dollar. In one instance, border materials the federal government purchased for $4.4 million were sold for just $156,000.

There is still more than $255 million in materials unaccounted for. Unfortunately, this is another example of the president’s failure to do his job. As he abdicates his leadership role, Congress must step in. Fortunately, congressional Republicans are focused on passing legislation that would treat the border like the national security crisis it has become.

As the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I led other legislators as we passed this year’s national defense bill through the Senate. In it, we successfully included several measures that would strengthen our position on the border.

One measure is called the "FINISH It Act," which would resume construction of former president Donald Trump’s border wall. The law would compel the current administration to use the existing border panels or sell them to states that could build the wall themselves. Border states understand the stakes of this catastrophe in ways the president willfully ignores.

Remarkably, Senate Republicans passed the provision out of the Democrat-led committee and the entire Senate on a wide bipartisan basis. It is not hard to see why. Under this administration, every state feels the impact of the border crisis. Even Democrat members of Congress can no longer ignore it.

The FINISH IT Act is just the beginning of our defense legislation’s border-security measures. Others take aim at the deadly cartels.

One provision would establish a pilot program to bring world-class U.S. military training to the Mexican security forces. This will improve our bilateral cooperation against shared threats, including the cartels.

Another provision would take the fight to cartels in cyberspace, and another would increase coordination between defense, intelligence and homeland security officials. These proposals would bring the weight of U.S. technological and logistics tools to the fight by targeting work we can do from our side of the border.

This crisis is Biden’s self-inflicted wound, but congressional Republicans are successfully advancing solutions. This fall, the House of Representatives and the Senate will work together to send a defense bill to the president’s desk. 

There will be many disagreements, and I expect we will meet opposition from congressional Democrats. Thankfully, the Senate-passed NDAA puts Republicans in a strong negotiating position. We must not miss this opportunity to strengthen national security by strengthening border security.

Roger Wicker is a Republican representing Mississippi in the United States Senate.

This op-ed originally appeared in Fox News. Read it here.