06 December 2011

Troubling Numbers on Securing US Southern Border

Although the article is mainly about political promises, the numbers cited in this article about securing the border are troubling, to say the least.

The U.S. Border Patrol says 873 miles of the border, about 44 percent, have been brought under operational control. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said that "the border is better now than it ever has been."
Still, that means full control isn't even half met. And even getting this far required bolstering the ranks of the Border Patrol to the highest levels ever, from about 9,500 along the border in 2004 to 18,152 today. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also has a record number of agents on the border, and five Predator drones now patrol strategic parts of it, with a sixth coming by the end of the year. About 650 miles of fencing has been constructed, and 1,200 National Guard soldiers dispatched last year to Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico have had their deployment extended through the end of the year.

There's open warfare on our southern flank, and we're only covering 45% of it? Wow.

By: Brant

10 comments:

brtrain said...

Well, with the Levin-McCain act shredding whatever was left of the concept of Posse Comitatus, I guess there will soon be a fair number of uniforms available for deployment along the southern front as they return from "East of Suez".

Brant said...

The real question is "why was posse comitatus ever relevant to border control?"

Posse comitatus is only relevant if you treat border enforcement as a law enforcement mission. I think it's certainly a debate worth having whether or not it's law enforcement or a legitimate military defensive operation.

Matt Purvis said...

18 U.S.C. § 1385

"Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

Posse Comitatus doesn't prohibit the use of the armed services to enforce state and federal laws if Congress has authorized the action. Aside from that minor detail, I think Brant has a good point that border operations could be considered national defense by a reasonable person. It is certainly more directly a national defense mission than operations in BFE Africa.

brtrain said...

Border enforcement has not been a significant mission of the US Army since the opening of the West. The last time the standing military was involved in significant operations was the Border Campaign of 1910-19 (chasing Pancho Villa and all that). The United States Revenue Marine, the wet part of the customs service, predates the establishment of the US Navy (1791 vs. 1798). The US Customs and Border Patrol was created in 1853.

Anyway, the point is that for the last 100 years or so it's been a law enforcement issue and not one of military defense. Changing that would (and should) be a significant signal, both domestically and internationally, and the opportunity for a realignment and re-missioning of your armed forces. Not this incremental nibbling away at laws, posting a few hundred Guardsmen here, flying a drone there...

(captcha = sande. Yes, it certainly is, down there.)

Brant said...

I think the discussion certainly needs to be had (and note, I've not already made up my mind and I'm open to good arguments on either side).

I just hope the discussions happens in quality, educated prose, rather than bumper-sticker aphorisms.

brtrain said...

Hah!

You (we) got a hope of that, huh...

Meanwhile (and I'm sure this has been done before, just as a back of the envelope exercise), try and figure out how much of the standing Army it would take to cover the approximately 2,000 miles of Mexican border in some fashion.

Oh, and about 25 years ago I wrote a scenario for the old SPI Minuteman game about this very thing: http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/39332/variant-for-minuteman-la-raza

brtrain said...

Hmmmm - lessee...

I have no idea of modern defensive unit frontages, but I do know there are 18 rifle platoons in the two infantry battalions of an Infantry BCT. Build a chain of platoon size outposts and make each one responsible for a grid square, and you have about 20 km covered, one platoon deep. Keep the cavalry squadron as a mobile reserve for when anyone actually tries to get through the line. The mortar platoons in the infantry battalions would do for illumination missions, so you could dispense with the artillery battalion - set them to watching radar screens or launching UAVs all the time, so the riflemen can get some sleep.

Well, that's 20 km covered to some degree, so you would need 160 infantry BCTs to cover the entire 3,200 km of border with Mexico, provided the border with Mexico was completely flat and straight, with no roads crossing it or built-up areas to control. Oh, and everyone would have to live in those outposts and never leave, unless you had another 40 or 50 BCTs to relieve them from time to time.

And that's just Mexico! You'd need another 445 BCTs to cover the 8,900 km of the Canadian border, the longest international border in the world. But you have nothing to fear from us Canadians sneaking in, no you certainly don't....

Anonymous said...

someone REALLY needs to make a wargame for this one!

- Mike P

brtrain said...

Is it still a wargame if only one side shows up with guns?

Brant said...

Brian - Ask Custer about that one :-D