Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 30, 2009

Border talks: Governors seek to exchange constitutional responsibility for cash

Filed under: Border Security,Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on June 30, 2009

Late last night the Associated Press reported, “The Obama administration is developing plans to seek up to 1,500 National Guard volunteers to step up the military’s counter-drug efforts along the Mexican border…”

Chris Bellavita addressed this issue in a Saturday post.   Back in March I gave it some early attention.

The AP report continues, “The plan is a stopgap measure being worked out between the Defense Department and the Homeland Security Department, and comes despite Pentagon concerns about committing more troops to the border — a move some officials worry will be seen as militarizing the region.”

The good news here is that the Pentagon is reluctant.

“Senior administration officials said the Guard program will last no longer than a year and would build on an existing counter-drug operation,” according to the AP report.  ”They said the program, which would largely be federally funded, would draw on National Guard volunteers from the four border states.”

The key phrase here is, “which would largely be federally funded.”

The Governors can deploy their State militias on their own authority.  But when they do, it is also on their own dime.  While I haven’t read the words, there is an implication that border state Governors want the National Guard federalized under Title 10, so they don’t have to pay the costs.

During most of American history — the Civil War being the most dramatic exception — the federal military enterprise on American soil has been exceedingly small.  Until World War II our most significant military forces consisted of either naval bases or state militias or federal troops being prepared for overseas operations.

Since World War II the size of the federal military establishment has, of course, skyrocketed.  But throughout this period the focus of the military has been on far-flung foreign adversaries.  Unfortunately domestic tranquility and the common defense now encourage looking closer to home.

The Associated Press reports, “Defense Secretary Robert Gates has expressed concern that tapping the military for border control posts is a slippery slope and must not be overused.” 

A slippery slope to where?  He does not say (or at least the AP does not say).  But history tells again and again of the danger to free institutions when military power is focused on issues of domestic security.   

In the case of the United States this is certainly not a clear and present danger.   Our current slope is very slight and firmly rooted with a military ethos and a political culture that ensures civilian authority.  

But boots-on-the-ground tend to erode any slope, no matter how gradual or well-rooted.  We have invested a great deal in the technical and intellectual competence of our professional military.  As an institution and as individuals, they are great problem-solvers.

Out of respect for our ancestors sacrifice – and our grand-children’s hope –for freedom, we should be very cautious regarding which problems we ask the military to fix.

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2 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 30, 2009 @ 8:17 am

Note that the Border Patrol was part of DOJ before moving to DHS on March 1, 2003. Well totally mismanaged by DOJ as are most of DOJ non-litigation efforts. This includes of course the FBI. In the book Kennedy Justice published long ago, it revealed that RFK was first AG to ever be visited by Hoover after RFK entered HOOVERs office unannounced and found his sound alseep. Purportedly RFK told Hoover’s Executive Secretary that he would like to see Mr. Hoover in the AG’s office when he woke up.

Okay why all this. Why does a civil agency and the Governor’s need DOD/NG support for border ops. Why no surge capability for their own assets. After all poor little understaffed FEMA has almost 10,000 names on its Disaster Temp roles. Why not just give Border Patrol and whatever orgs need it the same authority?

The boots on the ground Armed Services are stressed now and for most of next decade. Let’s let NG recuperate. After all you never know what is around the corner? Nicagarua (sic)? Just to repeat–DOD pays for over 90% of all training and equipment and pay costs of the NG under normal circumstances even when not federalized. If a declared disaster usually FEMA picks up full tab of NG deployment when used by the STATE and even when federalized. DOD often charges FEMA 200% overhead rates for this service which is supposed to be solely humanitarian (no law enforcement–whether or not federalized–) because DOJ insists and this should be made cleared that FEMA does not reimburse anyone for law enforcement activiity. Of course when the FBI showed up at the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing with no commo, no food, no safety equipment etc etc they were fully funded by FEMA despite illegality (IMO) of this reimbursement.

Comment by Marylin Bey

August 6, 2010 @ 1:53 am

Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I’m sure you had fun writing this article. You want everything to be perfect, but also appealing to the eye.

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