Radio Interview with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale on KTAR of Phoenix, Arizona
First of all, how do you assess the numbers at the Arizona-Mexico border?
It's not as much as we were hoping right away, but what's your take?
MR. MCHALE: Actually, we're doing pretty well. Along the four Southwest border states, as of today we have about 1,300 soldiers actually in operational billets, forward deployed, engaged in operational activities assisting the Border Patrol. We have about 2,000 additional soldiers. Many of them -- frankly, Arizona has been a primary focus because of the history of massive cross-border movement in Arizona. The Border Patrol has given us certain priority sectors in Yuma and Tucson and so on. We have about 2,000 soldiers in their preliminary indoctrination training on active duty, being taught about the rules for the use of force and other mission requirements along the Southwest border. And in addition to the 1,300 already deployed, within the next few days those 2,000 will begin their forward deployment to significantly increase the number of operating forces.
Right now in Arizona we've got 418 soldiers forward deployed in operational billets, and we anticipate that over the four-state area Arizona is going to be the dominant state in terms of National Guard activity.
Q And what about our situation here with the threat of violence? I mean, it is -- we have had Border Patrol agents injured, shot, killed on the job. We've also got -- you know, there's always that threat of violence.
MR. MCHALE: Yes.
Q Are our soldiers vulnerable in any way? And are -- they're being trained, I guess, in the appropriate use of force.
MR. MCHALE: There is a risk, and we are training for that risk. We are very careful. I have personally reviewed what we call the rules for the use of force.
Our soldiers, under appropriate circumstances, will be armed. They will have deadly force, which means that they'll be prepared to use their weapons to defend themselves, including the use of deadly force if that proves to be necessary. There are very violent areas along the Southwest border. There are areas where the Border Patrol has routinely encountered life-threatening circumstances. We do not expect that most of our soldiers will be in areas even close to that kind of danger, but we are anticipating that possibility. And so we want those who might consider coming across the border -- particularly the more malicious elements of the criminal activity down there, particularly those who are engaged in narcotics activity -- we want them to know that United States soldiers, whenever in a position of potential danger, will be armed with deadly force, and they will be given very clear instruction as to how to use that force.
Now, finally, we want to make sure that our soldiers understand those rules for the use of force. Back in the mid-1990s we had U.S. Marines, active duty, on the Texas border. There was a shooting incident; a young man was killed by the Marines. We want to make sure that our soldiers in this mission are fully trained for a circumstance where they might have to use their weapons and, regrettably but if necessary, take a human life.
So there is danger, but we're prepared for it.
Q One final question. What do you see the role is -- your take on the Minutemen out there? Are they -- is that something that you're concerned about, or do you welcome their help, or what's your take?
MR. MCHALE: Our relationship with the Minutemen is a relationship that really is conducted through the Border Patrol. As you might guess, because of the past placement of Minutemen participants along the border, the Border Patrol has correctly recognized that there needs to be a degree of consultation and coordination and situational awareness on the part of government agencies like the Border Patrol and through them the National Guard so that we have an awareness of what the Minutemen are doing in terms of their lawful activities, and so that they have some idea of what we're doing in terms of our military missions.
And so our contact with the Minutemen has been modest. Our contact with the Border Patrol is intense. We're very closely coordinated with Border Patrol. And when I was down in the Southwest a few weeks ago, I asked the Border Patrol about their coordinating activities with the Minutemen, and they assured me that those activities are well-coordinated, and that we could rely upon their contact with the Minutemen to make sure that there was the right kind of coordination.
Q If I could ask one question. I know it's homeland security, but I'm not sure if it's on your radar; it might be a different department.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is meeting today with top representatives from Homeland Security --
MR. MCHALE: Yeah.
Q -- to talk about the dollars. Arizona got 40 million (dollars) last year; we're getting 20 million (dollars).
MR. MCHALE: Yeah.
Q What is -- what is your take on that, sir? Is that -- is that part of your realm?
MR. MCHALE: Actually, and considering the controversy that surrounds it, I'm pleased to say it is not. That's not a criticism of anybody; it's simply that responsibility to allocate grants to cities, such as the cities in Arizona and, as you saw, other major cities throughout the nation -- New York City and Washington, D.C. and so on -- that's exclusively within the Department of Homeland Security. They look at the threat environment and then, in their calculation of who gets how much grant money, they make a determination of where they believe the most severe threats can be identified.
Q But that's not part of your --
MR. MCHALE: That's not. We -- you know, we provide military force to assist the Border Patrol at the direction of the President and the Secretary of Defense.
MR. MCHALE: The grant allocation is exclusively within the Department of Homeland Security.
Q Got it.
Sir, thank you very much for your time. I sure do appreciate it.
MR. MCHALE: My pleasure.
Q Take care now.
MR. MCHALE: Thanks for having me. Bye.
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