San Diego Union Tribune

May 17, 2006

Guard to play support role, Chertoff says

By Otto Kreisher

WASHINGTON – The National Guard troops being sent to help secure the Mexican border will come as much as possible from the border states in which they will work and will be under the governors' control, but will be paid for by Washington, Bush administration officials said yesterday.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other officials repeated President Bush's assurance that the Guard troops will provide support services to the Border Patrol, using their usual military technical skills, and will not do law enforcement functions.

The Guard's missions will include “surveillance and reconnaissance, engineering support, transportation support, logistics support, vehicle dismantling, medical support,” construction of barriers, roads and other infrastructure, and language support, said Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense.

The officials insisted that deployment of a maximum of 6,000 personnel, from a national total of about 440,000, will not interfere with the Guard's ability to perform its foreign missions in the war on terrorism or to respond to domestic emergencies.

“In fact, we have more troops available and more equipment and more experience this year than we did last year,” for response to Hurricane Katrina, said Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard.

The Guard presence will be reduced as the Border Patrol builds up its force to 18,000 agents by 2008, officials said.

Blum explained that the troops will deploy to the border for two or three weeks for their normal yearly active duty for a training period, rather than the two-year call-ups required for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, to ensure continuity of effort, the rotating Guard units will be supervised by “a continuity force that will be in there for the duration, and they will come out of the affected states as well,” Blum said.

»Next Story»