More evidence from the Washington Times that the deployment of National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border was and is a bad idea from a cost and security standpoint:
National Guard troops deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of President Bush’s plan to free U.S. Border Patrol agents have been assigned bodyguards — some of the same agents the soldiers were sent to relieve.
Several veteran Border Patrol agents in Arizona told The Washington Times they were issued standing orders to be within five minutes of National Guard troops along the border and that Border Patrol units were pulled from other regions to protect the Guard units — leaving their own areas short-handed.
The agents, who refer to the assignment as “the nanny patrol,” said most of the Guard troops are not allowed to carry loaded weapons, despite a significant increase in border violence directed at Border Patrol agents and other law-enforcement personnel over the past year.
The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), which represents all 10,000 of the agency’s nonsupervisory agents, said the presence of more than 6,000 Guard troops on the border has allowed a few hundred agents to be reassigned from administrative to field duties, but that “about the same number are now assigned to guard the National Guard troops.”
I have a lot of respect for the difficult, thankless work that the National Guard and the Border Patrol do. But I’ve thought that this deployment was a bad idea from day one, and this story exposes the decision to deploy these National Guard troops for what it is: a political exercise that runs contrary to everything that Sec. Chertoff espouses about a risk-based approach to border security. (And it’s contrary to what Sec. Chertoff thought five months before the decision was made). There are so many other ways in which the $756 million/year that we’re spending for this initiative could be better used: fully funding the DNDO instead of slashing its budget, increasing the Department’s intelligence budget, staffing up a chemical security oversight office, etc. It’s a shame that political exigencies are trumping solid risk-based threat and vulnerability analysis on this issue.