Archive for July 16, 2010
Patrolling Down on the Rio
This isn’t the marshes of southern Iraq nor one of the irrigation canals of Afghanistan. Instead, the photo shows Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) looking for traffickers in drugs, weapons or illegal immigrants along the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico. Narcotics-fueled violence on both sides of the border has become a hot political issue and security concern.
CBP, a post-9/11 agency that combines the duties previously performed by Border Patrol, Customs and Agriculture inspection agents, maintains a fleet of 225 maritime patrol boats and the world’s largest non-military air force (290 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters) to patrol the waters around and skies above the U.S.
The Senate Appropriations Committee this week (July 16) approved $43.79 billion in spending for the Homeland Security Department, including nearly $10 billion for CBP. The money would be used to fully fund 20,370 Border Patrol agents — the vast majority of them (17,000) to be assigned to the Southwest border with Mexico. The measure, passed without any Republican votes, still has to clear the full Senate and be reconciled with the House of Representatives’ version.
More than $66 million would be directed at border security activities including: $20 million for counter-drug initiatives on the Southwest border to stop the flow of currency and guns from the U.S. into Mexico and $25.9 million for more pilots, vessel operators and staff and $20.5 million for another unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the seventh in the agency’s drone fleet. CBP Air and Marine already has six unarmed Predator B drones: four based in Arizona, one in North Dakota an another scheduled for maritime patrol out of Florida.