Republicans Decry Cuts, But Aircraft Can Cover More Ground
National Guard troops deployed to patrol the southwestern US
border with Mexico will see their numbers cut in January from the
current 1,200 to about 300. Replacing them will be military planes
and helicopters, according to the Arizona Republic.
The Pentagon reported announced the cost-saving strategy
Tuesday, but President Obama is already under attack from
Republicans for what they say is an inadequate presence to support
the mission of the Border Patrol. The National Guard ground troops
have been on duty there since June of 2010.
Representative Ben Quayle, an Arizona Republican, is the vice
chairman of the House's border-security subcommittee. He credits a
recent drop in illegal border crossings to a weak US economy, not
major advancements in border security, as he says the
administration has claimed. Arrests of illegal immigrants entering
the US through Arizona reached a 17-year low in fiscal 2011, the
year ending September 30th.
Going forward, National Guard helicopters and planes will
augment the Border Patrol's current fleet of manned and unmanned
aircraft. If spotters detect illegal activity, it will be reported
to the Border Patrol.
Michael Lytle, a border expert at the University of Texas at
Brownsville, says the shift in policy makes sense. "Intuitively,
(aircraft) can get out in remote areas and cover a lot of areas.
That is the upside of this. And if it does save us money, so much
the better. And lastly, it shows the administration is still making
the commitment to support these operations."