Two Texas lawmakers, joined by 17 border sheriffs from Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, have asked Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to authorize the shipment of surplus equipment being returned from the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to the border with Mexico as a matter of “national security.”
Reps. Ted Poe, a Republican, and Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, said in a letter the massive drawdown of U.S. forces has resulted in the shipment of more than 1.5 million pieces of equipment out of Iraq over the past year and that nearly 900,000 items remain - all of which would be useful to federal, state and local law enforcement in their efforts to secure the border with Mexico.
The surplus equipment includes, among other combat gear, Humvees, weapons, communications trailers, observation platforms and night-vision goggles.
Mr. Poe also introduced a House resolution known as the Send Act that would direct the Defense Department to make 10 percent of certain equipment returning from Iraq available for use by law enforcement agencies that patrol the nation’s southern border.
“We have brought this right to the secretary of defense because border security is a national security issue,” Mr. Poe said. “State and local officials are on the front lines of the southern border fighting to protect Americans from spillover violence from Mexico.
“They do the best they can with what they’ve got, but they are outmanned and outgunned by the drug cartels and they are desperate for more resources,” he said.
Mr. Poe said that for years the American people have invested their money in equipment that has been used to defend the borders of other nations and it was time that same equipment be used to secure the United States.
“If we want to boost border security, we have to help law enforcement agencies beef up their resources to meet this demand. We cannot have one without the other,” said Mr. Cuellar. “We intend to keep the lines of communication open with the Defense Department so we can help our border law enforcement agencies navigate the equipment application process.”
In January, Mr. Cuellar hosted a meeting with Defense Department Assistant Undersecretary Paul N. Stockton in Laredo, Texas, to brief local law enforcement agencies on programs available through the Defense Department’s Domestic Preparedness Support Initiative. More than 100 officers, including border federal law enforcement agents, participated.
The Domestic Preparedness Support Initiative coordinates Defense Department efforts to identify, evaluate, deploy and transfer technology, items and equipment to federal, state and local first responders. The initiative fulfills Congress’ intent to support public safety and homeland security by leveraging taxpayer investments in defense technology and equipment.