by Ron Spangler
Before the Christmas Day terror attack on flight #253 into Detroit the new FY 2010 budget went into effect for Department of Homeland Security. While there was an increase in the overall budget, due to reallocation of funds within the Department some agencies actually experienced a budget cut in security measures.
One of the areas experiencing the biggest cut was in the Border Patrol. In Secretary Napolitano's FY 2010 Budget Request released May 7, 2009 she bragged about the Department's efforts in "preventing the smuggling of people, drugs, cash and weapons across our nation’s borders while facilitating international trade and travel."
The news release went on to say they had created a new initiative to disrupt the flow of drugs, cash and weapons that are fueling the drug cartels in Mexico. When it comes to our Southern borders it is clear Secretary Napolitano doesn't consider our Border Patrol Agents as an essential part of the effort to control attempts of would be terrorist from entering our country. In her list of priorities she recognizes the primary function of DHS is to protect the American people from terrorist attacks. Evidently when it comes to the Border Patrol she does not consider protecting the American public from terrorist and the threat of terrorist weapons entering the United States as part of their mission.
Since the attack on 9/11 the structure and mission of CBP and our Border Patrol Agents have taken a drastic turn. They are no longer simply looking for illegals or fruits and vegetables that could damage our well being. They are a large part of our first line of defense against terrorist looking for any opportunity to attack and kill Americans. While the public and media focuses most of their attention on the illegal immigration aspect of the agent's job, they fail to recognize the job agents are doing everyday and night along our Southern borders. Since their primary mission has been changed and they have been designated as the primary federal law enforcement agency designed to protect Americans from terrorist attacks they have been extremely successful. Until the Christmas 2009 attack on flight #253 no terrorist had been able to penetrate our border security and carry out a successful attack on the homefront. With the attack of 2009 and reallocation of funds this is about to change in 2010.
Secretary Napolitano believes the best way to fight terrorism is to add more desk jobs and technology by additional funds for resourcing the expansion of information-sharing partnerships with local and state law enforcement. What she doesn't say is she is taking funding away from the everyday operations of the Border Patrol to pay for this expansion. In her budget request she brags about the additional manpower she has planned for different agencies within DHS. Included in this number is a paltry 44 additional Border Patrol agents for FY 2010. This will not cover the loss of agents along our Southern borders due to natural attrition, transfers and increased violence coming from Mexico.
Agents in most of the sectors along our Southern borders have been experiencing long hours requiring overtime for the majority of 2009. It is not uncommon for agents in the field to work 12 or more hours a day, everyday, 5 days a week. Using a weird formula for determining overtime pay they are restricted from receiving overtime pay equal to their counterparts in the private sector. Agents normally earn from 10% to 25% extra pay for overtime based on the number of hours worked. The number of hours a agent can claim has always been limited but with the new FY 2010 budget the amount of overtime hours has been drastically reduced in certain sectors. Due to operational budget cuts, agents in these sectors have been told when their shift ends they must stop what they are doing and return to their official duty stations. What this means is some areas along the border will not be patrolled during certain hours of the day. This will undoubtedly create holes in our first line of defense against would be terrorist, smugglers, criminals, or illegals. Creating unmanned corridors along our borders that allows the free flow of illegal entry into the interior is a unintended consequence of decisions being made by this administration.
A lot is expected from agents in the field and we seldom hear anything in the media in support of what they do. For the most part they are either ridiculed by the open borders section of America or just forgotten by the national media. In less than 2 years 2 agents were murdered by illegals. One was killed by a smuggler and the other was executed supposedly by a lone teenager that confessed to doing it while trying to rob the agent. He struck a deal receiving a 20 year sentence. Very little for executing a father, husband and federal law enforcement agent performing his duty of protecting Americans from would be terrorist and criminals targeting our country.
It is clear this administration and for the most part the American people will continue to misunderstand or simply ignore the vital role these agents play in protecting our country. Maybe after the next successful terrorist attack, and it is determined that the terrorist crossed through our Southern border, this administration will wake up. Reallocating funds and manpower but still expecting a understaffed agency to fulfill their mission is naive and dangerous. It shows a distinct misunderstanding of the threats facing the United States and the American people. Agents along our borders are men and women no different than other American men and women serving in our military and other areas that have taken the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We cannot expect people that risk their lives everyday and night to continue to perform their duties at the highest possible level without support from the people they are trying to protect.
President Obama earlier in 2009 announced he would reduce the number of agents deployed along our Southern borders and transfer hundreds to our Northern borders. Now with the reallocation of funding creating budget cuts in some of our Southern border sectors he is basically telling our agents we expect more for less. This is a recipe for disaster. After the 2009 Christmas Day attack I hope but don't expect that President Obama and Secretary Napolitano will rethink their strategy on the terror threat facing America.