Q: (In progress) -- to talk about issues like this is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland (Defense) Paul McHale. Mr. Secretary, welcome to "Brian and the Judge."
MR. MCHALE: Good morning. I'm delighted to be here.
Q: Thank you. Are we sending more troops to the Mexican border, or are we going to talk to the new president before we do so?
MR. MCHALE: The president's made a decision, that we're now executing, that we will, in fact, send those troops. Now, obviously we want to encourage a good relationship with our neighbor on the south, and we'll be conferring with the Mexican government at all levels, but the fact is the president's made a decision and we're going to get the job done.
Q: Yeah, how many troops do you have down there now?
MR. MCHALE: We have 1,300 troops that are actually deployed into billets that have been identified by Customs and Border Protection. We have about 2,000 more that are already on active duty in the four-state area, and to make sure that they're fully trained before they get out into operational billets, they're going through indoc training on things like rules for the use of force and orienting to the environment along the Southwest border. Many of them come from areas at some distance from the border itself. Within the next few days, most of those 2,000 will begin transitioning into operational billets. So the total number right now is 3,500, with 1,300 already employed in operational billets.
Q: Now, Mr. Secretary, these are National Guard troops that have come from the 50 states, right? They're not active duty, full-time military.
MR. MCHALE: They are on active duty. They have not yet come from the full 50 states; it's a smaller number at this point. But they are on active duty in what we call Title 32 status, so we in the Department of Defense pay for those forces, but they're actually under the command and control of the individual governors.
Q: Now, let me ask you something, Mr. Secretary. These sites that were handed to you from the states seem comical, if not tragic -- from guarding petting zoos to theme parks, where these people didn't even know that they were on -- they were being submitted from their state offices as possible terrorist targets. How do we get -- how do we rearrange this?
MR. MCHALE: Whoa, let's take a deep breath here. We're talking apples and oranges. It took me a moment to realize what you were talking about. This is not the program at the Department of Homeland Security that had to do with the identification of threat targets. That's not us and that's not this mission. That's something completely different.
Q: A different mission I understand, but isn't it that Homeland Security's going to decide where the money goes?
MR. MCHALE: No. See, in this case, this is the Department of Defense, and these are soldiers that are being deployed not at the direction of the state, although they're under command and control of the governor. Border Patrol is identifying for us the missions that they need to have us execute. It has nothing to do with petting zoos or things of that sort. I'm well aware of the criticism --
Q: You didn't choose an Amish petting zoo as a potential target, Mr. Secretary? (Laughs.)
MR. MCHALE: We did not. And I'm gently trying to get out of that one. We -- (laughter) -- the concern on that point can be addressed to another department, where I do not want to imply any criticism of our fellow department, Department of Homeland Security. I'm simply emphasizing that what you're referring to in your question has to do with the allocation of DHS grants to protect identified targets throughout the nation. That's not this mission.
This is the Southwest border where we've got 6,000 soldiers that will be deployed for the next two years at any point in time along the Southwest border. We're working with Border Patrol, and most of those soldiers are going to be used for entry identification; in other words, observers with binoculars and scopes, literally along the border, identifying illegal cross-border movement so that we can notify the Border Patrol and they can interdict those who have illegally come across the border. That's what we're doing.
Q: You're listening to "Brian and the Judge" on Fox News Talk. You can reach us at 866-408-7669. We're chatting with Assistant Secretary of Defense --
MR. MCHALE: Thank you. (Laughs.)
Q: -- of Homeland -- I said it that way to please you, Mr. Secretary -- for Homeland Defense Paul McHale.
Mr. Secretary, about a month ago on this show, a good friend of the show, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly --
MR. MCHALE: Oh, I know Ray. Yeah.
Q: -- you know Ray -- opined that the northern border with Canada in some respects is more leaky and more dangerous and more treacherous than the southern border with Mexico. What say you?
MR. MCHALE: There are concerns on both borders. The concern that we're now addressing primarily on the Southwest border has to do with illegal cross-border movement of aliens. The border that we addressed, for instance, along the Canadian border last year was much more oriented toward a terrorist threat. There have been threat streams in the past that gave us reason to be concerned that there could be cross-border terrorist movement from Canada into the United States. We've worked very closely with Canada on those issues. And although it didn't attract nearly the attention of our current deployment to the Southwest border, for a period of about four or five months in late 2004, early 2005, we deployed military forces along the northern border to assist the Border Patrol, not for the purpose primarily of interdicting illegal aliens, but specifically to enhance our counterterrorism security on the north. So we've got challenges on both the northern border and the southern border, and military forces are being properly employed to address both.
Q: When you look at the effectiveness that Israel has had with their wall, does that make you want to do something similar?
MR. MCHALE: Well, we are, in fact, following the lead of Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol, in terms of what they, the professionals, think will be needed to secure the Southwest border. You know, we're the National Guard. We're the Department of Defense. We're not in the business of land border security for purposes of controlling illegal immigration. The Border Patrol has that responsibility within the Department of Homeland Security. We're assisting them.
And in fact, we do anticipate -- we are right now using National Guard units, primarily engineering units, to construct barriers along the Southwest border. We've done that in the San Diego area, working for instance with the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter. I anticipate that we may well do something similar to that along the 37-mile border of the Marine Corps installation in the Yuma area.
But basically we're supporting Customs and Border Protection. If they want it built, we'll get the job done.
Q: Mr. Secretary, do we have troops on the northern border with Canada?
MR. MCHALE: We -- to the best of my knowledge, at the moment we do not. I'd have to double-check with one of our units, called JTF North. They periodically have very small deployments along the northern border. But in terms of any large-scale deployment of the type that I was referring to earlier, which was Operation Winter Freeze that has been brought to a conclusion. But for a period of time we had approximately several hundred soldiers deployed along the northern border during a period of time when we thought there might be an increased threat.
Q: He is the assistant secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, Paul McHale. Thanks for joining us, Paul.
MR. MCHALE: Glad to do that.
Q: All right.
MR. MCHALE: Have a good day.
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