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Radio Interview with Assistant Secretary of Defense McHale on Texas State Radio News Network

Presenter: Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul McHale
May 18, 2006 2:35 PM EDT

            MR. HELTON:  Well, first of all, just to whoever would like to answer the question, really, how does this latest -- the DOD's responsibilities of the border and immigration plan, how will -- what's the biggest impact to the state of Texas?  How will Texas be impacted by this?

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Well, the President has made a decision that, as part of a comprehensive immigration reform, we have to have much better border security not only along the Texas-Mexico border, but throughout the entire Southwest, and indeed throughout the nation.  And so what he has instructed us to do is to take the successes that we've had in terms of military missions in support of Customs and Border Protection and build on those successes with more people, more equipment, more mission sets so that we can deploy in the first year up to 6,000 National Guardsmen along the Southwest border not in a lead role, but to assist Customs and Border Protection in securing that border.

 

            MR. HELTON:  And I know there are questions.  Some governors have been very supportive of the program; others -- I saw a couple yesterday who basically brought up some -- in one particular case, California Governor Schwarzenegger, who said this is going to cause some logistical problems here as far as transportation, housing, things of that nature.  Is this being factored into the equation of how to get this all done so that there won't be any problems, or hopefully it will lessen the problems?

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Doug, I'm going to ask General Vaughn to talk about quality of life and the effect of some of those logistics issues.  But let me just say in response initially the vast majority of governors with whom we've been in contact have been very supportive of this mission.  That's been bipartisan support, both sides of the aisle, Democrats, Republicans.  There's a common belief that we need to do more to secure our borders as part of that comprehensive immigration strategy.  And so we're hopeful that in the case of the governor of California and, in fact, in the case of every governor that once the governor becomes familiar with what it is the president has directed us to do that the common sense of the military missions will persuade the governor that he and his state should participate.

 

            Clyde, what I'd ask you is perhaps why don't you talk about the living conditions of our personnel and some of the logistics matters.

 

            GEN. VAUGHN:  Right, right on track, Secretary McHale.  I think that once we get the plan put together at that level, the living conditions and what we're going to do logistics-wise, that'll all be framed out and it'll be taken care of.  I think that as you look at the very early-on going in this -- and we don't have real good fidelity on the mission, so we haven't worked the requirements of the task forces and the mission sets and the troops -- but there's no place that we put them that we don't go in and support that.  And the Army National Guard and the Army is there to support this in the manner that everything will be fine as far as logistics support and living conditions on the border, just like it is with any other training activity.

 

            MR. HELTON:  And is it something -- kind of give me a time frame.  I know that's still being worked on, but when will people in Texas -- those residents who do hear our newscast on the Texas State Network -- when can they expect to essentially see the first members of the National Guard being deployed in those areas?

 

            GEN. VAUGHN:  Doug, we would think this -- this was going to be in June sometime.  We're going to phase up to this.  This is not going to be jump out there all at one time with 6,000 folks.  We've got to put in the infrastructure that's necessary.  And so the commander's (reconnaissance), which is basically the adjutant general of each state and their governor, they're responsible as commanders down there of their Guard units.  They'll look at the mission set, and as that comes back this way, then we'll all collaborate on that.  And I think sometime in June you'll start seeing the first phase of -- I don't know how; there may be two or three phases to this, but we'll build up.

 

            MR. HELTON:  And is it kind of a general overview of what -- so that we can reiterate to Texans and to others that might hear this, what actually is expected of or what will be the job of the National Guard troops, and what will not be their job?  I think that's another thing that --

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Well, those are both good question, yeah.  Both good questions.

 

            Doug, let me just give you a sense of what we will be doing, and then in response to your question what we won't be doing.  We're going to build upon the successful experience of the military counter-drug program that goes back to 1989.  And we've been doing with much smaller numbers of forces in more limited areas a lot of things over the last 20 years to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the Southwest.  We've been building barriers.  We have been constructing roadways to give Customs and Border Protection better access to some of the remote areas.  We have routinely flown military helicopters over the border so that when we spotted illegal cross-border movement, we could provide information to Customs and Border Protection so that they could interdict and apprehend those who were illegally crossing into the United States. We've done intelligence analysis.  We've done a lot of things of that type to support Customs and Border Protection in that counternarcotics role.

 

            Now we're doing to take -- well, as an example, as of last week we had about 400 military personnel engaged in those traditional missions.  As indicated earlier, during the first year of this deployment we're going to ramp up from a start of 400 personnel to perhaps as many as 6,000, doing the same kinds of missions, but in much larger areas, much greater surveillance, and even closer tied to Customs and Border Protection with more military personnel, not so we engage in law enforcement activities, but so that we can assist CBP in meeting their job.

 

            And that's really the second part of the question.  We are not turning the border into a military zone.  We are -- we are continuing to rely as a nation on our civilian law enforcement capabilities, principally Customs and Border Protection, to meet the law enforcement function along the border.  Our National Guardsmen are not going to be out there standing with rifles along the Texas-Mexico border.  We're going to be using our skills -- a lot of technical skills and a lot of military capabilities -- to provide information and assistance to CBP so that when it comes to law enforcement, the civilians remain in the lead.

 

            MR. HELTON:  And then the final -- I don't want to keep you, but just kind of a general overview, some -- anything that you would like to stress that I might have failed to ask as we wrap this up?

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Well, the only thing I would mention is to emphasize, as the President has emphasized, that this is a temporary mission for the National Guard.  We do not envision that years from now the National Guard will still be engaged in this kind of activity. We're going to build roadways and then pull back.  We're going to put up barriers and, once they're done, retrograde the forces.  We're going to provide assistance to Customs and Border Protection so that during the next two years we can train and then deploy a greater number of civilian law enforcement officers.  So we recognize within the military that we have a lot to contribute, but it is a temporary mission, and the purpose of this military mission is to give civilian law enforcement authorities a chance to beef up their own capabilities.

 

            MR. HELTON:  We'll certainly put this to good use, and hopefully I'll get to talk to you again in the near future, once this thing gets integrated or maybe down the road, when we get ready to pull back a little bit.

 

            MR. MCHALE:  We would welcome that.

 

            MR. HELTON:  Okay.  Thank you so much, to both of you, for your time.

 

            MR. MCHALE:  Thanks, Doug.  Appreciate it.

 

            MR. HELTON:  Okay.  Bye bye.

 

            MR. MCHALE:  We'll see you.

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