National Guard Border Drawdown: The Administration's Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

By Janice Kephart on April 25, 2012

Last week, former presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry blasted the White House for reducing the number of National Guard troops on the country's border with Mexico. Even peak deployment was only 250 troops (Perry asked for 1,000) for the entire 1,200-mile Texas border, which now will have no troops on the ground and a handful of helicopters monitoring the border instead. The president says he's eliminating ground troops primarily due to low morale and cost, which will be reduced from $120 million for the scant 1,200 troops that were on the ground along the entire border to $60 million for a handful of helicopters in the sky. California — where there are reports every week of huge drug busts on the border — only had 264 National Guard troops. Now it will have to make do with 14.

According to the National Guard, however, low morale is due to the president only allowing the troops to act as lookouts, rather than making arrests or seizures. So not permitting the National Guard to do their regular duties (arrests, seizures, rescues, fence building and surveillance) on the border — duties that over 6,000 National Guard troops conducted with aplomb in 2006 just in the Yuma Sector in western Arizona, significantly helping the Border Patrol get that sector under control — has left them feeling bored and useless. The president, primarily citing this administration-induced low morale, is now pulling troops out and replacing them with a handful of nifty new expensive helicopters. Helicopters and other "aerial surveillance" assure that the National Guard has absolutely no reason to complain about not arresting illegal crossers, chasing vehicles laden by drugs, or conducting rescues and they get to pilot their new helicopters in the "safety" of the border zone, rather than in a real national crisis. Assuming, of course, our borders are not considered a national crisis.

Back in December 2011, when President Obama initially announced the troop drawdown, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and a democratic colleague blasted the administration, stating:

GAO, the General Accounting Office, says the border is only 44 percent secure. Well, if we only control 44 percent, who controls the other 56 percent? It's not Mexico, it's not the United States, well who is it? It's the drug cartels. So it's an unwise decision.

In a recent Center for Immigration Studies trip to the Arizona border, our folks were told by Border Patrol in one sector that the National Guard had been pulled in February despite providing valuable help, even as lookouts, and that there has been an increase in illegal crossings in that sector since then. Meanwhile, the administration also claims the Guard is not necessary because apprehension numbers are down. Yet apprehension numbers have nothing to do with illegal border-crossing numbers when current policy just temporarily scares illegal aliens back across the border to wait for unprotected times to cross. Meanwhile, the administration quietly shuffles border agents from areas where there is heavy crossing to those with lighter crossings in order to turn a blind eye to illegal entry. But shhh! You weren't supposed to know that.

Despite all the articles on the drawdown and the administration's continual spin on how withdrawing troops and putting a few helicopters in the air will increase security, what they are not telling anyone is that they set up the National Guard deployment to be perceived as a failure. And got exactly what they sought. Except that, with the Guard not acting as lookouts, illegal crossings in at least one Arizona sector are increasing again.