Sunday, November 11, 2007

Congress adds new funding for Guard troops at the border

Members of the House and Senate appropriations conference have added $247 million in the fiscal 2008 Defense spending bill to continue a National Guard mission along the southwest border. The border effort had been neglected in the Bush administration's budget request.

The funds would keep about 3,000 National Guard troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border to assist in border-security operations and training of border patrol personnel.

Neither the Defense Department nor the Homeland Security Department had requested money to continue the mission, dubbed Operation Jump Start, in fiscal 2008, despite long-standing administration plans to keep a limited number of troops on the border.

The President had used a nationally televised address in May 2006 to announce an initial deployment of 6,000 Guard troops mainly for border surveillance missions and construction. Troops would be withdrawn after the first year 'as new Border Patrol agents and new technologies come online,' he said. But when the National Guard began reducing by half the number of its troops deployed to the border this summer, the redeployments immediately triggered concerns from lawmakers who feared that it was too soon to withdraw troops.

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