Is the National Guard Prepared for Border Security Operations?
by Jim Kouri, CPP
The announcement that during his Monday night televised national speech, President George W. Bush will reveal his plan to deploy troops at the southern border to beef-up security, begs the question: Is the National Guard prepared for border security operations?
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the global war on terrorism have triggered the largest activation of National Guard forces since World War II. As of June 2005, over one-half of the National Guard's 457,000 personnel had been activated for overseas warfighting or domestic homeland security missions in federal and state active duty roles.
In addition to increased usage, the Guard has also experienced long deployments and high demand for personnel with specific skills, such as military police. The high pace of operations and the Guard's expanded role since September 11 have raised concerns about whether the Guard is capable of successfully performing its multiple missions within existing and expected resource levels, especially given the challenges it faces in meeting future requirements such as proposals to use the National Guard in protecting our southern border from mass illegal immigration.
The Army and the Air National Guard have begun adapting their forces to meet new warfighting requirements since the September 11 attacks, but some measures taken to meet short-term requirements have degraded the readiness of nondeployed units, particularly in the Army National Guard. To deploy ready units for overseas missions, the Army National Guard has had to transfer equipment and personnel from nondeploying units.
Between September 11, 2001, and July 2004, the Army National Guard had performed over 74,000 personnel transfers. Similarly, as of May 2005, the Army National Guard had transferred over 35,000 equipment items to prepare deploying units, leaving nondeployed Army National Guard units short one-third of the critical equipment they need for war.
The Army has developed plans, such as the Army Campaign Plan, to restructure its forces to better prepare them for future missions. However, it has not finalized detailed plans identifying equipment needs and costs for restructuring Guard units. Moreover, the Army is still structured and funded according to a resourcing plan that does not provide Guard units all the personnel and equipment they need to deploy in wartime, so the Army National Guard will be challenged to continue to provide ready units for operations expected in the next 3 to 5 years.
The Air National Guard is also adapting to meet new warfighting requirements, but it has not been as negatively affected as the Army National Guard because it has not been required to sustain the same high level of operations. In addition, the Air National Guard generally maintains fully manned and equipped units. While the Army and the Air National Guard have, thus far, also supported the nation's homeland security needs, the Guard's preparedness to perform homeland security missions that may be needed in the future is unknown because requirements and readiness standards and measures have not been defined.
Without this information, policy makers are not in the best position to manage the risks to the nation's homeland security by targeting investments to the highest priority needs and ensuring that the investments are having the desired effect. Since September 11, the Guard has been performing several unanticipated homeland missions, such as flying patrols over US cities and guarding critical infrastructure. However, states have concerns about the preparedness and availability of Guard forces for domestic needs and natural disasters while overseas deployments continue at a high pace.
The Department of Defense plans to publish a comprehensive strategy for homeland security missions that DOD will lead. However, DOD has not reached agreement with multiple federal and state authorities on the Guard's role in such missions. Also, the National Guard Bureau has proposed initiatives to strengthen the Guard's homeland security capabilities. However, many of these initiatives are at an early stage and will require coordination and approval from other stakeholders, such as DOD and the states.
In the absence of clear homeland security requirements, the Guard's preparedness to perform missions at home cannot be measured to determine whether it needs additional assets or training.
Sources: US Department of Defense, General Accountability Office, AmeriCop USA, National Security Institute
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.