Guard Troops Leaving the Border

Number expected to drop to 300 in two weeks; congressional delegation concerned.    

by Bruce Daniels
The number of National Guard troops stationed along New Mexico’s border with Mexico as part of the 15-month-old Operation Jump Start is expected to drop to 300 as of Sept. 30, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported on Sunday.

That’s down from about 1,000 troops along the border a little more than three months ago in New Mexico’s portion of the operation that began in June 2006 to place 6,000 troops all along the U.S. border with Mexico to support beleaguered Border Patrol agents, the Sun-News said.

Although President George W. Bush and the Department of Homeland Security had envisioned a drawdown of National Guard troops after the first year of Operation Jump Start, members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are expressing their concern about the downsizing and its potential effects, the Sun-News reported.”I am concerned that if we prematurely reduce the number of Guard personnel it will be difficult to maintain recent achievement,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a July 16 letter to the president. “I do not believe that there are enough Border Patrol agents on the ground in New Mexico yet to justify a reduction of National Guard personnel by over 50 percent.”

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., also joined in July with Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in urging the president to keep the Guard’s border operation going, the Sun-News said.

“I remain concerned about the plan to draw down Operation Jump Start,” Domenici wrote the president.