PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Kristi Noem confirmed Tuesday that 50 South Dakota National Guard soldiers are on a previously announced deployment to the nation’s southern border, but she didn’t say what unit they’re from, how long they’ll be there, what it’ll cost, or exactly what they’re doing.
South Dakota Searchlight sent messages about those and other aspects of the deployment to Noem’s office and the South Dakota National Guard. Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, responded with a message that said the best summary of the Guard’s work is provided by the office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Beyond that, I will not be able to answer further questions until after the unit’s return for operational security reasons,” Fury said.
He included a link to a page on Abbott’s website, which says the operation aims to “secure the border; stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people into Texas; and prevent, detect, and interdict transnational criminal activity between ports of entry.”
Noem’s office said in a news release Tuesday that she visited the border and participated in a briefing with the Guard troops. She announced plans for the deployment in June and said last month that the troops would deploy Sept. 1.
Noem, a Republican, and some other states’ governors are sending troops to the border in Texas at the invitation of Abbott. The operation is intended to strengthen border protections against illegal immigration beyond the actions taken by the federal government.
“With the federal response falling short, our National Guard troops are providing support alongside forces from Texas and other states to help manage the situation,” Noem said in Tuesday’s press release, which described the border as a “warzone.”
Accompanying Noem at the border were South Dakota Adjutant Gen. Mark Morrell and South Dakota Secretary of Public Safety Bob Perry.
In June, Noem’s office told South Dakota Searchlight the deployment would be funded by the state’s Emergency and Disaster Fund, which her own budget described as being for emergencies and disasters “in South Dakota.” Noem has not provided a cost estimate for the deployment.
Noem has sent National Guard troops to the nation’s southern border before. In 2021, she ignited controversy with her acceptance of a $1 million donation from Tennessee billionaire Willis Johnson to pay most of the cost for deploying 48 troops. That deployment cost a total of $1.45 million, according to records obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The $1 million donation was routed through the Emergency and Disaster Fund, and the fund covered the portion of the deployment’s cost not covered by the donation.
Also in 2021, Noem approved the sending of additional National Guard soldiers to the border at the request of the federal government. She said at the time that those additional troops were on “federal pay status.”