USA — Guard Leaders Hope Efficiencies Will Extend Border Role

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2010 — Nation­al Guard sol­diers and air­men are mak­ing a big dif­fer­ence to civil­ian law enforce­ment offi­cers work­ing along the U.S. south­west bor­der, and offi­cials hope smart fis­cal over­sight will allow them to stay through the spring, a Nation­al Guard Bureau offi­cial said.

Home­land Secu­ri­ty Depart­ment offi­cials have told mil­i­tary lead­ers at the Pen­ta­gon that they are “very impressed” with the sup­port from 1,195 sol­diers and air­men deployed to the bor­der to help DHS’s Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion agents, Army Maj. Gen. Peter M. Ayl­ward told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice in a Nov. 24 inter­view. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Home­land Secu­ri­ty, the Office of the Sec­re­tary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the adju­tants gen­er­al for Cal­i­for­nia, Ari­zona, New Mex­i­co and Texas dis­cussed the Guard’s con­tri­bu­tion along the bor­der and their deploy­ment sched­ule dur­ing a Nov. 23 video tele­con­fer­ence, said Ayl­ward, a spe­cial assis­tant to the chief of the Nation­al Guard Bureau.

Home­land Secu­ri­ty Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano vis­it­ed Cal­i­for­nia Nation­al Guard mem­bers in San Diego, along with her top mil­i­tary advi­sor, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Chuck Michel, on Oct. 18. Michel report­ed back that there is a high return on invest­ment from Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s direc­tive in May to send up to 1,200 Nation­al Guard troops to the bor­der, Ayl­ward said.

“He said they are very impressed with the atti­tude, pro­fes­sion­al­ism, and great sup­port the Nation­al Guard sol­diers and air­men are pro­vid­ing in the San Diego sec­tor, and across the board in the oth­er states,” he said. “The troops are doing great work, and it’s great­ly appre­ci­at­ed by our col­leagues who are work­ing to hire and train 1,000 agents.”

The Guard mem­bers were asked to sup­port the fed­er­al agents until the new hires are on board. The Guard reached capac­i­ty for the mis­sion in Octo­ber, and the direc­tive calls for the draw­down of troops to begin in Feb­ru­ary. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials, though, are still work­ing out the rede­ploy­ment sched­ule, Ayl­ward said. Rede­ploy­ment is tied to the $135 mil­lion allo­cat­ed to the mis­sion, which is shared equal­ly between the Home­land Secu­ri­ty and Defense depart­ments.

“How long we sus­tain the 1,200 folks on the bor­der is part and par­cel to the $135 mil­lion,” he said. “The ram­p­down sched­ule is some­thing the team is work­ing through right now with the four states. The real­i­ty is we have had no change to the exist­ing require­ment and don’t antic­i­pate a change to that require­ment.” The chal­lenge, he added, is how to exe­cute that require­ment with­in the bud­get allo­ca­tion.

Because of the “great fis­cal stew­ard­ship” of the four adju­tants gen­er­al, Ayl­ward said, offi­cials hope to extend the draw­down time­line into late spring, and per­haps into June. The adju­tants gen­er­al cut costs for the oper­a­tion by using low­er-lev­el per­son­nel and find­ing alter­na­tives to work-relat­ed trav­el to stretch the appro­pri­at­ed funds, he said. Defense and Home­land Secu­ri­ty offi­cials are review­ing the draw­down sched­ule to deter­mine how long they can fund it, Ayl­ward said.

The troops are work­ing most­ly in “entry iden­ti­fi­ca­tion teams” that oper­ate in secret loca­tions to pro­vide over­sight of the 2,000-mile bor­der between the four states and Mex­i­co, the gen­er­al said.

“For us, it’s real­ly noth­ing new,” he said. “They work in lis­ten­ing posts, obser­va­tion posts, gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion to give to law enforce­ment for pros­e­cu­tion.”

The Guard mem­bers also work as crim­i­nal ana­lysts in sup­port of immi­gra­tion and cus­toms offi­cials, Ayl­ward said. “We do a great job with ana­lyt­i­cal work and intel­li­gence around the globe, so this is a great fit for us,” he said.

“This, frankly, is just anoth­er chap­ter in this ini­tia­tive [to reduce transna­tion­al threats along the south­west bor­der] that began even before DHS start­ed, going back to 1993 with Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion,” he added.

This year has seen an improve­ment along the bor­der, with ille­gal immi­gra­tion down 23 per­cent between Jan­u­ary and August, Ayl­ward not­ed. Dur­ing the same time, drug seizures were up 15 per­cent and weapons seizures were up 30 per­cent. At the same time, drug vio­lence has surged in Mex­i­co, but lit­tle has spilled over to the U.S. states, he said.

“Our chal­lenge is how to have rules that facil­i­tate trade, tourism and com­merce, but elim­i­nate transna­tion­al threats and ille­gal activ­i­ty,” Ayl­ward said. “We’re part of those who are help­ing with those solu­tions by screen­ing out the transna­tion­al threats.”

The break­down of Guard mem­bers along the bor­der is 224 in Cal­i­for­nia, 524 in Ari­zona, 72 in New Mex­i­co, and 250 in Texas. Anoth­er 130 are work­ing com­mand and con­trol, offi­cials said.

Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion spokes­woman Kel­ly Rose Ivah­nenko said the Nation­al Guard teams help to fill gaps in sur­veil­lance cov­er­age along the bor­der, enhance inter­dic­tion efforts with analy­sis and tech­nol­o­gy such as infrared sens­ing devices and truck-mount­ed cam­eras, and pro­vide agents with real-time infor­ma­tion.

“Nation­al Guard troops serve as valu­able part­ners and are a tremen­dous asset in bol­ster­ing our bor­der secu­ri­ty efforts, along with unprece­dent­ed resources in man­pow­er, tech­nol­o­gy and infra­struc­ture that have been allo­cat­ed by this admin­is­tra­tion,” Ivah­nenko said.

As exam­ples, Ivah­nenko said, Guard mem­bers have assist­ed Bor­der Patrol with 2,500 appre­hen­sions and the seizure of near­ly 3,000 pounds of mar­i­jua­na in the Tuc­son, Ariz., sec­tor. In Texas, Guard mem­bers have helped to secure 25 appre­hen­sions and 200 pounds of mar­i­jua­na in the El Paso sec­tor and 430 appre­hen­sions and 1,348 pounds of mar­i­jua­na in the Rio Grande Val­ley sec­tor. Cal­i­for­nia Nation­al Guards­men have detect­ed 1,046 ille­gal entries that result­ed in arrests by Bor­der Patrol agents, she said.

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

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