Photo by Sgt. Mark Otte

National Guard Vice Chief: About 900 troops currently at the border

April 16, 2018 - 6:16 pm

As of now, there are about 900 National Guard troops on the border in response to the president’s call for more help with border security.

During a press briefing about the National Guard deployments to the Southwest border, Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson said that, the more than 900 soldier count were as of Monday morning but is changing daily as more are given orders. 

He gave a breakdown of current Guardsmen with just under 250 in Arizona, 60 in New Mexico and about 650 in Texas.

They are planning to have about 2,000 on the border, said to Bob Salesses, department of defense deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense integration and defense support of civil authorities (DSCA).

The National Guard is there to assist the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in several ways, including aviation support, monitoring camera and sensor feeds, and repairing roads and vehicles, but not in a law enforcement capacity, said CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner, Ronald Vitiello.

While not performing law enforcement duties, they will also “not be employed in customs and border protection missions that place them in direct contact with personnel on the border. Nor will they be required to be armed to perform their assigned CBP missions,” Salesses said.

When the National Guard leaves, the border will be “conditions based,” Vitiello said, of them meeting the “standard of operational control at the border,” set out by presidential executive orders issued January 25, 2017.

“That’s the goal that the president has set for us. So, all of the planning for increase capability, including what the Guard is going to bring, is based on that standard,” he said.

Currently, the deployments are being filled with volunteers from the four border states, said Hokanson.

“We’re planning through 30 of September, which is the end of the fiscal year,” he said. “But of course along that line, prudently we’ll start planning to go beyond that.”

How long individual volunteers will be deployed on the border for any length of time will be left up to the states. “It’ll be a case by case basis. Some will be able to go the full time, others may need to change back and forth,” Hokanson said.

The Department of Defense is still working on an estimate for how much these deployments will cost, according to Salesses. They are still receiving information on future additional requirements.

In the past, Operation Jump Start cost $1.2 billion over two years and Operation Phalanx cost $110 million after a year. Phalanx was extended for another few months at a cost of about $35 million, according to the Government Accountability Office.

“Right now we’re cash flowing,” Salesses said, about how they are currently paying for it with National Guard training accounts. They are also looking at other DoD accounts that have available money they can use.