- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2018

Deploying the National Guard to the border turns out not to be very good for either border security or for the troops looking for a realistic training environment, the Air Force secretary said in a new report released by Congress Wednesday, calling into question President Trump’s deployment plans.

A 2014 pilot program that deployed 250 soldiers from the District of Columbia’s Army National Guard netted just 22 additional illegal immigrants for the Border Patrol, said Heather Wilson, the Air Force secretary and a former Republican member of Congress.

She also concluded the operation “provided a relatively small return on investment in terms of collective training readiness,” though it cost $500,000 more than if the troops had done their normal training.

It’s not clear how directly the 2014 pilot program relates to the much longer, more structured deployment Mr. Trump has begun.

But Sen. Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who highlighted the report, said it undercut the president’s rationale.

“With this report, the secretary of the Air Force says clearly that playing border politics with the lives of the women and men serving in our National Guard is costly and threatens our readiness to respond to real threats to our national security,” he said, praising Ms. Wilson for “candor and commitment to our service members.”

Customs and Border Protection, which officially requested the troops, said it expects they’ll be very helpful.

“The support of the National Guard will allow Border Patrol agents in detailed assignments to return to the field to focus their law enforcement efforts on securing the border against all threats to include narcotics, weapons, illegal aliens, and possible terrorists,” the agency said in a statement.

The agency also said troops will help CBP officers at ports of entry move cargo through.

“While the National Guard personnel will not conduct inspections, it will allow more officers to return to primary and secondary inspection areas,” the agency said.

Mr. Trump has said he would send up to 4,000 guard troops to the southwest border. The current deployment actually envisions about 2,000.

They are playing a supporting role to the Border Patrol, and won’t be directly involved in enforcing immigration laws.

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