Press Release

Congressman Henry Cuellar Lauds National Guard Troop Mission Shift from ‘Boots on the Ground’ to ‘Boots in the Air’

The Department of Homeland Security announces National Guard troops stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border shift support mission from entry identification teams to aerial surveillance

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Washington, December 20, 2011 | Maria Gonzalez (202-225-1640) | comments

Congressman Henry Cuellar praised the Department of Homeland Security’s and Department of Defense partnership for a new border security strategy that shifts National Guard troops stationed along the Southwest border’s mission to aerial surveillance support for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


“Since 2006, the National Guard’s presence along the U.S.-Mexico border has been a critical support for Customs and Border Protection’s mission to protect and secure our border, and they’ve always had my support,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Now, with record-high Border Patrol agent staffing levels and low unauthorized immigrant apprehension rates, we need to start looking at more cost-effective and efficient ways to spend our homeland security dollars.”


“I applaud the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense for approaching the Guard’s mission in a multi-layered approach by shifting to aerial surveillance support. This is certainly a welcomed boost for our border law enforcement agencies,” said Congressman Cuellar. “The more we can tap into cutting-edge technologies to support our agents, the better prepared they will be to protect our border communities.”


An increase in DHS assets, including a record number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the border, has bolstered the transition as part of a new strategic approach, adding several multi-purpose aerial assets equipped with the latest surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. This aerial support will provide “eyes in the sky” that will increase Border Patrol’s response capabilities, allowing them to quickly move from one location to another to address emerging threats of illegal activity.


The Department of Defense has allocated $60 million for aerial surveillance support, which will provide for aircraft including OH-58 Kiowa helicopters and UH-72 Lakota helicopters, as well as fixed-wing aircraft, such as the RC-26. The package of DoD assets will be equipped with sensors fit for aerial monitoring and surveillance that is necessary to assist CBP’s interdiction operations. The Defense Department will reduce National Guard troops stationed along the border from 1,200 to below 300.  Allocation of these troops across border states will be driven by CBP threat assessments, though these figures have yet to be determined.


National Guard Border Mission Background


Currently, approximately 1,200 National Guard troops are stationed along the Southwestern border in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The National Guard troop presence in the U.S.-Mexico border initiated with Operation Jumpstart in 2006. The first deployment went through July 2008, and a second deployment of 1,200 troops was launched from July 2010 to September 2011.


The National Guard’s mission on the border is to assist the U.S. Border Patrol with the detection and prevention of the smuggling of contraband and to support the agency’s efforts to stem the flow of unauthorized immigration. The number of unauthorized immigrant apprehensions decreased from 1.6 million in 2000 to 327,577 in 2011, which is an 80 percent decrease.    


In 2010, with Congressman Cuellar’s support, the Southwest Border Supplemental was passed and signed into law, a measure that provided $600 million supplemental, which provided additional technology, manpower and infrastructure for the Southwest border. This included $306 million for CBP that allowed the hiring of 1,000 Border Patrol Agents. Currently, there are 18,500 agents stationed along the Southwest border.

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