Friday, May 19, 2006

Guard to Assume Title 32 Mission at U.S.-Mexico Border in June

May 19, 2006

Guard to Assume Title 32 Mission at U.S.- Mexico Border in June

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, National Guard Bureau chief, told reporters Tuesday that the Guard can meet its overseas obligations, respond to domestic crises and still perform a new role at the country's border with Mexico.

The briefing followed President Bush's speech Monday, where he said the country must first secure its borders with the help of some 6,000 National Guard personnel on Title 32 duty - funded by the federal government but under command of border state governors. The missions would likely be part of Guard annual training.

In addition, the president said officials would beef up security with high-tech fencing around urban areas, new patrol roads, motion sensors and other technological advances.

At Tuesday's briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the president has "put on the turbo chargers with this anti-illegal migrant effort."

He noted Mr. Bush's proposal to double the number of Border Patrol personnel by the end of 2008 and anticipates that military forces will begin border duty in June.

Mr. Chertoff also explained that the goal is not "arrest and remove" but to deter illegal immigration through regulation and tracking of those who cross the border and alleviate the pressure on Border Patrol officials.

The Guard's experience with its counterdrug program for more than 20 years, he said, makes it extremely adaptable to the new border mission.

Officials also tried to quell fears that the Guard is overextended, stating that the troops necessary would make up less than 2 percent of the Guard's available strength.

Paul McHale, assistant secretary for Homeland Defense, who also participated in the briefing, said military forces would work on a rotational basis for up to 12 months.

"Military support will not exceed 3,000 personnel during a possible second year of deployment," he added.

Guard missions will include surveillance and reconnaissance, engineering support, transportation support, logistics support, vehicle dismantling, medical support, barrier and infrastructure construction, road building and linguistics support.

"The $756 million [allocated for the Guard in President Bush's supplemental request] is above and beyond all previously budgeted expenses related to annual training," Mr. McHale said.

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