Guard Support at Border Not New Concept, Officials Say
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2006 The National Guard has supported operations at the U.S. southern border for years, and the new plan announced by President Bush last night will simply expand those operations, Defense Department officials said here today.
Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum (right), chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, address a joint news conference on border security in Washington, May 16. Photo by Cdr. Jane Campbell, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"The National Guard is superbly suited for this mission. We've been doing it for over three decades, just at a much smaller scale," Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said at a joint news conference about border security. "We're trained, we're ready to do this, and we're able to do this."
The National Guard has routinely used member's required two-week annual training period to support border control and counterdrug programs at the border, said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense.
Under the new deployment plan, the Guard will still use the annual training period, but will be sending more troops, McHale said, and those troops will perform missions consistent with their military skills.
Troops will rotate in and out of the border mission every two to three weeks, Blum said, but the leadership will remain the same for the duration of the operations. The leaders who are there long-term will be from the affected states -- California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico -- and will be under the control of the joint force headquarters, he said.
The initial commitment will be for up to 6,000 troops on a rotational basis for up to one year, McHale said. For a second year of deployment, military support will not exceed 3,000 personnel, he said.
The National Guard's border missions will include surveillance and reconnaissance, engineering support, transportation support, logistics support, vehicle dismantling, medical support, barrier and infrastructure construction, road building, and linguistics support, McHale said. He emphasized that Guard forces will play no role in the direct apprehension, custodial care or security associated with those who are detained by civilian law enforcement authorities.
"Law enforcement along the border will remain a civilian function," he said.
The Guard deployments along the border are meant to act as a bridge to improve civilian security capabilities, McHale said. Blum agreed, saying the support would help the civilian authorities grow in the areas where they need assistance.
"This will, hopefully, set the conditions for the Customs and Border Patrol law enforcement agencies to do an even more effective job than they're able to do now because of the lack of infrastructure, or the lack of medical support, or the lack of communication support, or the lack of some aviation assets or surveillance platforms or sensors, or the lack of additional support personnel to help them," Blum said.
The National Guard's deployments to the border will not affect its readiness to support the global war on terror and to respond to natural disasters, Blum said. The Guard has more troops and equipment available than last year, and the president's requirements at the border will only use about 2 percent of the force, he said.
Officials from DoD and the Department of Homeland Security will be working this week to determine what missions the Guard will perform, what kind of units are needed, and where they are needed, McHale said. The deployment process should begin in June, he said.
The plan is still in its early stages, but based on similar past missions, DoD is working out the details, McHale said.
"We're building upon past success. And we are reinforcing that success with a much greater number of personnel and a more robust commitment of resources," he said.