Rumsfeld, Blum Support Temporary Guard Border Mission
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2006 President Bush's proposal to temporarily boost the National Guard's contribution to U.S. border security stands as a testament to the Guard's flexibility but in no way signals a new, long-term Guard mission, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress today.
Under Bush's plan, announced May 15, up to 6,000 National Guard members will provide mobile communications, transportation, logistics, training, and construction support to the U.S. Border Patrol, the secretary said in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee.
Rumsfeld emphasized that the National Guard will not provide law enforcement support. "Military forces will not be involved in apprehension or detention of illegal immigrants," he said.
To those concerned that the mission will put too much stress on the force, Rumsfeld noted that the number of troops proposed represents less than 2 percent of the Guard's 400,000-plus members. During the mission's second year, Guard participation is expected to drop to 3,000 or less, he said.
These troops will operate during their two- or three-week active-duty-for-training periods. The National Guard already operates this way in support of counternarcotics missions along the border, he noted.
Rumsfeld said the mission will provide Guard members real-life training without disrupting other missions or causing undue personal hardship, he said. "This will not only not adversely affect America's ability to conduct the war on terror or respond to other domestic emergencies," Rumsfeld said. "It will actually provide useful, real-life training for the members of the National Guard.
"It will be beneficial to the Guard because they'll be doing the very same things they would be doing if they were training their two weeks on an exercise basis, as opposed to doing something that the country really needs."
California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the four border states involved, would use their own National Guard members to the extent they have the skill sets the Border Patrol needs, the secretary said.
The National Guard Bureau will work with other state governors to provide troops, as needed. No state governor will be required to commit Guard troops to the mission, Rumsfeld said.
The secretary emphasized that the arrangement is not a long-term commitment. Bush's proposal would commit the National Guard only "on an interim basis as the Department of Homeland Security ramps up to a greater level of capability," he said.
Army Lt. Gen. H Stephen Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told subcommittee members that the concept of using the Guard temporarily while developing other, long-term capabilities has become "a long-lasting, time-proven model."
He noted the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the National Guard provided airport security until the Transportation Security Administration could recruit and train enough people to take over the mission. "The Guard provided that capability for this nation on an interim basis until the proper federal agency could stand up, train and equip their people, and then they took over the mission, and the Guard left that mission and went back to doing other things," he said.
Similarly, the National Guard conducted cargo-handling inspections along the southwest border for several years as the U.S. Customs Service recruited, trained and equipped its own people for the job, Blum said.
"It would be my intent to work the National Guard out of this (Border Patrol support) mission as quickly as the Department of Homeland Security can stand up their capabilities," the general told the subcommittee members.
"I think the National Guard is superbly ready to be the military force of choice for this interim mission until the Department of Homeland Security can stand up and assume this mission," Blum said.