Surplus military gear sought by law enforcement along border
March 26, 2012 10:37 PM
McALLEN — U.S. border officials are asking the military to send
equipment no longer needed in Iraq and Afghanistan to the U.S.-Mexico
A massive drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq will essentially leave
almost 2 million pieces of equipment to be distributed, sold or
stored elsewhere, according to two Texas lawmakers and 17 border
sheriffs from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
At least 1.5 million pieces have already been shipped out of Iraq and
more than 900,000 others remain there, said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar,
He and fellow Texas Congressman Ted Poe, R-Humble, sent a letter to
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta requesting the Department of
Defense initiate talks about its plans for the goods.
The document — signed by the 17 sheriffs, included those of Willacy,
Starr and Hidalgo counties — asks the Defense Department to send the
surplus equipment to federal, state and local law enforcement
agencies along the U.S.-Mexico border to aid in their fight against
"State and local officials are on the front lines of the southern
border fighting to protect Americans from spillover violence from
Mexico," Poe said. "They do the best they can with what they've got,
but they are out-manned and out-gunned by the drug cartels and they
are desperate for more resources."
Sheriff Lupe Treviño believes it's a win-win situation. Taxpayer
money will be saved during "this budget crunch" and the equipment
will be put to good use instead of "collecting mothballs," he said.
"I don't see why anyone would object to something like this," Treviño
said. "They've done it before."
The Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office received fully automatic and semi-
automatic weapons, first-aid kits and at least three buses that are
now used to transport prisoners, Treviño said. Some sheriffs in the
Western side of the border received Humvees, which he said were not
needed along this portion of the border.
Some critics, however, cite an apparent militarization of the U.S.-
Mexico border. Earlier this year, Texas Department of Public Safety
deployed six armored boats equipped with machine guns to patrol the
Treviño, however, said troops are not occupying the border.
"Militarizing the border is one thing, and law enforcement folks
using military equipment is something else," he said. "We're talking
about using equipment that will probably never get used."
Poe introduced H.R. 3422, the SEND Act, which directs the Defense
Department to make 10 percent of certain equipment returning from
Iraq available to law enforcement agencies patrolling the southern
Agencies here could benefit from the unused weapons, vehicles,
communication trailers and observation platforms, Treviño said.
"We intend to keep the lines of communication open with the Defense
Department so that we can help our border law enforcement agencies
navigate the equipment application process," Cuellar said.
In January, he hosted a meeting with Assistant Undersecretary of
Defense Paul. N. Stockton and South Texas agencies to brief them
about the federal programs available to acquire military surplus
equipment and technology.