DOD Takes Southern Border Support to Air

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2011 — Defense Depart­ment and Nation­al Guard sup­port to South­west Bor­der secu­ri­ty will change in the next few months from a ground effort to pri­mar­i­ly air, Defense and Home­land Secu­ri­ty offi­cials said today.

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion is the lead fed­er­al agency charged with defend­ing the south­west U.S bor­der with Mex­i­co, but the Defense Depart­ment, specif­i­cal­ly the Nation­al Guard, works close­ly in sup­port of the effort, and has since 2010.

But the mis­sion has changed, said Paul Stock­ton, assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for home­land defense and Amer­i­c­as’ secu­ri­ty affairs. Cus­toms, he said, has beefed up its man­pow­er and tech­ni­cal abil­i­ties and no longer needs the num­bers of Nation­al Guard per­son­nel on the ground.

CBP has changed the kind of sup­port that it is ask­ing the Depart­ment of Defense to pro­vide,” he said, “and DOD is tran­si­tion­ing to much more effec­tive sup­port … that not only match­es up to what CBP needs, but pro­vides more flex­i­bil­i­ty against an adap­tive adver­sary.”

The bor­der is bet­ter pro­tect­ed because of the coop­er­a­tive rela­tion­ship between defense and home­land secu­ri­ty, said David Aguilar, the Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion agency’s deputy com­mis­sion­er.

“Over the last year, we had over 1,200 Nation­al Guard rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the line with us,” Aguilar said. Under the new sys­tem, he said, few­er than 300 Guards­men are need­ed.

The Guards­men worked with Bor­der Police to man entry iden­ti­fi­ca­tion teams. These are fixed posi­tions and were what was required at the time. But times change, and now the Bor­der Patrol requires aer­i­al plat­forms to pro­vide intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, recon­nais­sance and mobil­i­ty abil­i­ty.

This mis­sion will begin around the first of the year and com­plete­ly tran­si­tion by March, Aguilar said.

“There will be a ramp down of the sta­t­ic [entry iden­ti­fi­ca­tion teams] and the boots on the ground relat­ed to those [teams], but a ramp-up on the aer­i­al sup­port and plat­forms,” he said.

Bor­der Patrol Chief Michael Fish­er said the patrol has grown to 21,450 offi­cers. The avi­a­tion assets will focus at first on detec­tion and mon­i­tor­ing capa­bil­i­ties, he said. Guards­men will fly spe­cial­ly equipped OH-58 and UH-72 heli­copters with a detec­tion radius of 6 and 12 nau­ti­cal miles, respec­tive­ly. In addi­tion, Guards­men will fly RC-26 fixed-wing air­craft with detec­tion and mon­i­tor­ing capa­bil­i­ty of 12 nau­ti­cal miles.

Such capa­bil­i­ty will enable the Bor­der Patrol to work in more chal­leng­ing ter­rain and give the patrol a faster reac­tion time to pre­vent ille­gal activ­i­ties. These air­borne assets will be able to look way over the hori­zon of a per­son on the ground and be able to flow per­son­nel into an area.

Defense offi­cials will con­tin­ue to work with Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion offi­cials to fig­ure the mix of air­craft and capa­bil­i­ties and where the air­craft and ground sta­tions will be.

The new Nation­al Guard mis­sion will end Dec. 31, 2012, offi­cials said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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