Note: Comments from AZMEX SPECIAL 15 SEP 2011
Note: Few things;
First would question the numbers reported in the two ops.
Second; looks a lot like they working hard to find reasons not to do
Third; given that there is a war going on, just what is wrong with
having a "militarized border?
Fourth; with an estimated 30k troops returning from Iraq/Afgan wars,
why not redeploy to border? They already on the payroll.
Fifth: the ROE's are insane, are they the result of idiocy, or
Today: If DOD wants to do something, they can do it overnight.
GAO report reveals a rift over National Guard's role at border
by Daniel González and Dan Nowicki - Sept. 18, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
For most of the past five years, National Guard troops have patrolled
the southwestern border, helping to catch drug smugglers and illegal
And political analysts say there is a good chance the troops,
scheduled to leave Dec. 31, will remain through the 2012 election
because President Barack Obama won't want to risk the political
fallout of a move that could be viewed as retreating on border security.
But a new report by the Government Accountability Office, the
investigative arm of Congress, reveals a rift between the military
and Homeland Security officials over border strategy and the Guard's
Military chiefs have complained about what they see as a lack of a
comprehensive administration strategy for securing the 2,000-mile
U.S.-Mexico border, which has made it hard for the Pentagon to figure
out the best way to use Guard troops to prevent drug smugglers and
illegal immigrants from entering the country. Pentagon officials say
they are also concerned that continued assignments for the 1,200
troops could have long-term implications for Guard forces.
The 35-page GAO report was produced at the request of Sen. Carl
Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,
and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the committee's ranking Republican.
McCain, a frequent critic of the administration's approach to border
security, sought the analysis of the Guard's role last year and
quickly seized on it to again blast the Obama team's approach.
"It's really hard to understand why, at least in the view of the
Department of Defense, that there is no comprehensive border-security
strategy by the Department of Homeland Security," he said.
But Homeland Security officials defended their strategy, saying
deployment of more personnel and use of advanced technology along the
Mexican border is making it more secure than ever.
A department spokesman said the launch of the "Southwest Border
Initiative" in 2009 was a long-term strategy that is producing
impressive results and that the government will continue to increase
the number of agents on the border.
The GAO report comes just days after the Pentagon announced this
month that it would keep National Guard troops positioned in Arizona
and other border states through the end of December at the request of
the Department of Homeland Security.
The report provides the first in-depth study of the costs and
benefits of stationing Guard troops on the border.
It also fueled a clash over border security between Republicans and
the White House.
Republicans, including McCain and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, have
accused the Obama administration of not doing enough to secure the
border, while White House officials have repeatedly pointed to record
numbers of Border Patrol agents, record deportations and increases in
drug seizures, as proof their initiatives were working.
With the presidential race heating up, keeping troops on the border
also could have a political payoff for Obama as it makes it tougher
for Republicans to portray him as soft on border security.
Under the circumstances, friction between Homeland Security and
Defense officials over the border mission is inevitable, one national-
security expert said.
"They really, truly can't be fully integrated," said Rick "Ozzie"
Nelson, director of the Counterterrorism and Homeland Security
Program at the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International
Studies in Washington.
While National Guard troops are helpful in a border-support role and
the Homeland Security Department in recent years "has evolved to
develop a much more robust and comprehensive vision and strategy on
what we should be doing on border security," Nelson said ultimately
Congress needs to tackle immigration reform in a comprehensive way in
order to implement a true national border-security solution.
Customs and Border Protection, part of Homeland Security, really is
operating at the tactical level and isn't driving U.S. immigration
and border policy, he said.
"At the end of the day, immigration laws come out of Congress,"
Nelson said. "So we have to have a national-level discussion about
what we want our immigration policies to be."
Concerns for long term
This is the second time National Guard troops have been deployed to
the southern border in the past five years.
In 2006, then-President George W. Bush sent 6,000 Guard members to
build roads and fences in addition to helping to look for illegal
immigrants and drug smugglers. The 1,200 troops at the border today
are only assisting with the hunt for illegal immigrants and smugglers.
The total cost for both operations so far is nearly $1.4 billion,
according to the report and Guard officials. That includes $1.2
billion for Operation Jump Start from June 2006 to July 2008, and
$180 million for Operation Phalanx from June 2010 through December of
Over the course of the two operations, Guard members have helped law
enforcement to seize more than 350,000 pounds of marijuana and arrest
more than 200,000 illegal immigrants. The deployments also provide
real-world training for Guard troops.
On the border, Guard troops fall under the command of the Pentagon,
not the Department of Homeland Security, which operates the Border
Troops have not been allowed, during either mission, to perform law-
enforcement duties, such as arresting drug smugglers or illegal
The temporary deployment of Guard troops is intended to help the
government gain control of the southwestern border, the GAO report
noted. They are helping to beef up border security while the Border
Patrol trains and hires more agents, and adds more technology and
But according to the report, Defense officials say that because there
has been no long-term strategic planning by the DHS, the Pentagon has
been "hampered in identifying its role and planning for that role"
and fears that "mission creep" away from military duties could change
the Guard's fundamental role.
They are concerned that Guard troops might eventually be deployed on
the border long-term instead of temporarily, and that instead of the
currently voluntary assignments, they could become mandatory, the
report said. That could make it harder to recruit and retain Guard
members in the future, the report added.
Pentagon officials say they are also concerned that deploying Guard
troops on the border could reduce their availability for emergencies
Cost is also an issue. The Pentagon is paying for the $35 million,
three-month deployment extension announced this month, while at the
same time facing billions of dollars in budget cuts as part of
efforts to reduce overall spending by the federal government.
"They have some concerns about what additional costs they may incur,"
McCain said. "I understand that."
In response to the report, Matthew Chandler, a DHS spokesman in
Washington, D.C., defended the Obama administration's record on
border security and said DHS had implemented a comprehensive border-
security strategy. He pointed out that in March 2009, the
administration launched the "Southwest Border Initiative," under
which the government has "deployed unprecedented levels of personnel,
technology, and resources to the Southwest border."
That includes 18,152 Border Patrol agents now assigned to the
southwestern border, up from about 9,100 in 2001.
"While this work is not done, every key metric currently available
shows that these border-security efforts are producing significant
results," Chandler said. "Illegal immigration attempts, as measured
by Border Patrol apprehensions, have decreased 36 percent in the past
two years, and are less than one-third of what they were at their
peak. Seizures of drugs, weapons and currency have increased across
Rick Van Schoik, director of Arizona State University's North
American Center for Transborder Studies, said he believes the
Southwest Border Initiative has been effective. But the Obama
administration has yet to produce a comprehensive border-security
strategy. Such a strategy would go beyond operations and initiatives
to clearly articulate overall goals and measures for achieving border
security. The strategy also would describe the roles of various U.S.
agencies, including DHS, the military, the State Department, the
Department of Justice, as well as the Mexican government, he said.
"We've waited one year, we waited two years, we've waited three
years," Van Schoik said.
Last week, during a Senate hearing into whether the United States is
safer 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
differences over the government's border strategy led to testy
exchanges between McCain and Homeland Security Secretary Janet
Asked if she was aware of concerns raised by the Pentagon in the GAO
report, Napolitano told McCain she was unaware of the report,
released Monday, but had spoken with both Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta and his predecessor, Robert Gates, "about the fact that we do
have a comprehensive border strategy" and what "roles the Department
of Defense can do to assist us there."
"So you disagree with (Pentagon) officials' expressed concerns about
the absence of a comprehensive strategy for the Southwest border?"
"Vehemently," Napolitano said in a sharp, single-word response.
"Well, I would be glad to hear about your strategy because I've
failed to see one yet, nor have the residents of my state," McCain said.
The report also outlined concerns raised by other agencies.
Department of State officials worry that placing troops on the border
creates the perception that the border has been "militarized" at a
time when the United States is providing support to Mexican law-
enforcement agencies in the battle against drug-cartel violence, the
"I sympathize with the State Department, but when you look at things
that are going on south of the border, I think it is pretty clear
that militarization on the part of the cartels has been pretty
significant," McCain told The Arizona Republic.
According to the GAO, Department of Defense officials want a better
idea of how long troops will remain on the border so they can better
plan for their role.
Lt. Col. Robert Ditchey, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on
the report, but said there is no connection between the report and
the latest extension. He said the extra three-month deployment will
give DHS time to continue beefing up the border. It will also give
the Department of Defense time to gain consensus on the future role
of the Guard and to find alternatives to using the Guard, "which was
always viewed as a temporary."
It "reflects the original intent of using the Guard as a temporary
bridge ... until newly hired Border Patrol agents are trained and
deployed to the border," he said.
At the end of August, there were 21,083 Border Patrol agents,
including 18,152 on the southwestern border and 2,229 on the northern
border, according to DHS. The department's 2012 budget calls for
21,370 total Border Patrol agents, which includes 1,000 additional
agents authorized by Congress in 2010.
Ditchey said the Defense Department agreed to fund the 90-day
extension in part because deploying troops on the border provides a
"tangible training benefit" to the Guard personnel.
The money will come from Army and Air National Guard military
personnel and operational accounts, which will be reimbursed later,
McCain said he believes the cost of deploying the Guard troops on the
border is justified.
"The fact that the Department of Defense decided to extend their
presence there - I think their actions indicate that it's not only
worth it, but important," he said.
Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said Guard troops should remain on the
border despite the costs because border security is primarily the job
of the federal government. He, along with McCain and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-
Ariz., has introduced a 10-point border-security plan that includes
funding to keep the Guard on the border.
"It's critical that National Guard troops maintain their presence at
the border," Flake said in a written statement.