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Radio Interview with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale on Texas State Network, interviewer Rick Ways

Presenter: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Ddeefense Paul McHale
July 13, 2006
            MR. WAYS:  Hello, sir.  How are you doing?

 

            MR. MCHALE:  I'm doing great.  Good morning.

 

            MR. WAYS:  Good.  Rick Ways here.

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Rick, good to see you -- good to hear you.  (Laughs.)

 

            MR. WAYS:  (Laughs.) 

 

            MR. MCHALE:  We'll trigger our imagination.  I'll have a vision of you even if I don't have a picture.

 

            MR. WAYS:  (Laughs.)  All righty.

 

            Well, sir, tell us -- you know, I saw the numbers and everything, and --

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Yeah.

 

            MR. WAYS:  -- and you made the -- the deadline there for getting the first contingent in there.

 

            MR. MCHALE:  We did.

 

            MR. WAYS:  Does it look pretty good August 1st-wise?

 

            MR. MCHALE:  We are monitoring that very carefully, and I think by August 1st we will have 6,000 National Guardsmen deployed throughout the four-state area.  Right now in the Texas area we've got 301 Texas Guardsmen forward deployed, and of the total of 6,000 by August 1st, we anticipate that 1,500, roughly -- almost exactly one-fourth the total -- we'll probably go a little over 6,000, so about one-fourth of that total -- 1,500 -- by the end of July will be deployed in Texas.

 

            MR. WAYS:  Did they move initially to areas that are known to be major smuggling routes?

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Oh, absolutely.  We are working very closely with the Border Patrol.  We're providing support to civilian law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol.  Those guys are the pros with regard to the understanding of, awareness of, cross-border illegal movement, and we are basically concentrating our forces and our military activities in those areas that the Border Patrol has identified as trouble spots based on historic patterns of illegal cross-border movement.  And there are certain areas that are clearly priorities when compared to others along the 2,000-mile border.

 

            MR. WAYS:  Extra sets of eyes, basically.

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Absolutely.  We're going to -- of the total of 6,000 soldiers, we anticipate that about 3,000 will be providing those kinds of observation posts to detect along much greater stretches, a much more significant portion, of the Southwest border than is typically the case illegal cross-border movement.  So we will -- we will literally have about 3,000 new sets of eyes on the border assisting the Border Patrol to identify illegal cross-border movement so that the Border Patrol can then interdict those who have come illegally across the border and subject them to the legal process.

 

            MR. WAYS:  Is there any way to quantify or give us a number to how many detentions or arrests of illegals or their smugglers have been a result of the initial phase of this?

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Well, the answer is yes, but I'd caution as I give the figures because, frankly -- I mean, this is one guy's judgment on the subject -- but I think our role is predominantly, primarily if we're successful, to deter cross-border movement.  We do want those who are thinking about coming across the border illegally to know that we are deploying 6,000 soldiers along the border, and we want that to provide a deterrent.  And so in my judgment, the fewer the apprehensions, the better off we are if that means that those who would otherwise come across the border are being deterred from doing so.

 

            But in fact, up to this stage in the mission, we've had 583 alien apprehensions that were aided by National Guard activities, 24 vehicle seizures, 6,691 pounds of marijuana seized, eighteen-and-a-half pounds of cocaine, and 10 aliens were rescued under challenging circumstances -- humanitarian missions where those aliens were in life-threatening circumstances because of the method by which they and perhaps their illegal support system brought them across the border.  You're probably familiar with the term "coyotes."  The coyotes couldn't care less about human life, and all too often and tragically illegal aliens, in fact, lose their lives coming across the border because of the harsh conditions along major portions of the Southwest border.

 

            So there are metrics to measure things like apprehensions and detentions and seizures of narcotics, but if we are successful, the best effect of our military deployment is not to apprehend, but rather to overwhelmingly deter that cross-border movement.

 

            MR. WAYS:  Okay.  Now, the Guardsmen aided by alerting, I assume, the --

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Border Patrol.

 

            MR. WAYS:  -- Border Patrol to go and pick up these folks.  But was there any direct arrests made by the Guardspersons, any direct detentions?

 

            MR. MCHALE:  That's a great question.  That was a great question.  The answer is no and there won't be.

 

            We made a conscious decision, subject to direction from the president and the Secretary of Defense that the National Guard would not engage in direct law enforcement activities.  We are not going to militarize the border.  We're there to assist the Border Patrol.

 

            And so, although our soldiers when appropriate will be armed with deadly force and they will protect themselves when necessary, it is not their function to apprehend or to engage in other arrest and search-and-seizure activities, correctly performed not by us but by civilian law enforcement.  So we are doing things like flying helicopters; monitoring remote sensors, TV cameras and movement sensors; we'll have about 3,000 soldiers literally with binoculars and scopes observing the border.  And when we -- when we detect through those means illegal cross-border movement, our function is not to send out the posse in terms of our forces, but rather to notify the posse -- the Border Patrol -- so the civilian law enforcement agents can go out and do what they're trained to do, which is the enforcement of the law.

 

            We're not going to apprehend.  We are not going to physically stop, search or seize using military forces.

 

            MR. WAYS:  Final question, sir.

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Yeah.

 

            MR. WAYS:  What are the hardships for our people that you've got out there?  Any snakebites or anything like that?  (Laughs.)

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Oh, I suspect that we're going to encounter those kinds of things.  That's inevitable in the rough, very rugged terrain along the Southwest border.

 

            If you're a soldier, you like working in that kind of environment.  I come out of a military background, out of an infantry background, and I was down along the Southwest border looking at some of the places where we're going to put these observation posts, and -- I mean, this may sound a little bit optimistic, but I wish I were there, and I think a lot of our soldiers are going to be very pleased to be there.  It's beautiful country, mountainous country.  If you like to carry a pack and a rifle, which our soldiers do; if you like to be out there conducting surveillance missions at a distance, very typical of the kinds of things we do in the infantry -- I can't imagine better training for the war-fighting functions of these units to establish these observation posts in the rugged terrain, and that means that you're going to encounter some -- (chuckles) -- some challenging moments with wildlife along the way, including a few snakes.  But for our folks who train along the Southwest border and in places like 29 Palms and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, those kinds of encounters are just part of the -- part of the job.

 

            MR. WAYS:  All right.  Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time.  I appreciate it.

 

            MR. MCHALE:  You bet.  Glad to be here.

 

            MR. WAYS:  All right.  See you later.  Bye bye.