Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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GOP: National Guard Extension Good, but Not Enough

by Candice Miller on June 20, 2011

Republican lawmakers hailed the Obama administration’s announcement last week that it will keep 1,200 National Guard troops at the Southwest border for another three months, but they continued to press the president to expand the deployment.
The troops, who were set to cease operations this month, have been used to support Customs and Border Protection, mostly by serving in surveillance roles and working at land checkpoints. They were deployed last summer, and Department of Homeland Security officials have described them as playing a critical role. But in recent testimony, CBP leaders have also told lawmakers that by increasing resources along the border, they have become increasingly able to fill the gaps the troops had been bridging.
“The Department of Homeland Security is actively hiring and training new personnel and implementing new technology to enhance our border security architecture,” spokesman Matthew Chandler said when announcing the extension. “The National Guard is acting as a critical bridge while the administration brings new assets online to pursue additional people, technology, and infrastructure.”
He said the extension until Sept. 30 reflects the level of funding Congress provided for operations in fiscal 2011. The administration is still referring to the deployment as temporary and Chandler said the troops will be “providing support to law enforcement functions aimed at stemming northbound and southbound illicit smuggling and flows of people, drugs, weapons, and bulk cash.”
The announcement was met with reserved praise by a group of congressional Republicans that want to see a plan for a long-term plan that involves many more troops. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King and Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., chairwoman of the subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, wrote to the president in April asking for an extension. King, R-N.Y., said Friday that the decision to grant one is “a step in the right direction.”
“We need to see more and bigger steps in this direction,” he said. “ Given the very serious problems to be addressed along the Southwest border, this short three-month extension of a small number of troops is at best a half measure.”
Miller said the short-term nature of the extension could send the wrong message to the drug cartels with whom U.S. border forces are locked in a struggle.
“Short-term fixes are not an adequate substitute for a well-thought out plan to secure the border,” she said.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas said the administration made the right decision, but should consider keeping the troops at the border longer, noting that the troops have been helpful to Border Patrol agents. Chandler said since their deployment began last summer, National Guard soldiers have assisted CBP with the seizure of more than 14,000 pounds of narcotics and 7,000 illegal immigrant apprehensions.
In the Senate, Arizona Republicans John McCain and Jon Kyl have filed a bill (S 803) that would deploy up to 11,000 National Guard troops to the Southwest border by 2016 and provide increased funding to programs aimed at enhancing local law enforcement.

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