BY TISHA PANTER – Recently the Pentagon announced a military force reduction plan for active duty from almost 520,000 down to 440,000 active duty military personnel. Some Army leaders have indicated a reduction to 420,000 in 2016, and there is some talk that the actual target number is, in fact, 390,000 active duty. Pink slips are now being handed out at home and abroad to soldiers that had spent numerous years fighting and serving in the name of their country. The prime targets for these pink slips are soldiers who had served 18 years or less. The military is achieving further reductions by reducing the percentages of soldiers being promoted thereby effectively forcing them, over the next year or two, to retire.
As a result of the reduction in forces the U.S. government has an immediate opportunity to offer to and use a significant portion of the dismissed and retired active duty to secure the southern U.S. border. Most of the military being separated have experience or training in urban warfare, field training and detainee operations because of the recent wars and conflicts. They are also highly trained in the rules of engagement, meaning they are likely to have discipline and experience in determining an offender or a threat as opposed to an innocent.
Military members being dismissed or forcibly retired include members of all ranks experienced in reconnaissance, engineering, policing, logistics, administration and operations. Some may have mechanical skills for boats, trucks and aircraft. Many are members of Special Forces, military police, and chemical warfare, and some are ordinance experts. Most, if not all, of these members are experienced in night and day time operations. What better people could we choose to add to the U.S. Border Patrol under the Department of Homeland Security to secure the southern U.S. border?
There is a consensus, among many politicians and law enforcement, that the southern U.S. border is not secure. Every day we hear and see reports of illegals crossing into the U.S. Some are captured, most are not. Additionally there is an obvious danger to law enforcement and border patrols when coyotes and cartels are involved. Often, these clashes can involve gun fights. Cartels are varied but some of the more recent additions include cartels made up primarily of members trained originally as members of the U.S. Special Forces. The cartels have significant manpower, money and weapons.
Recently, some governors and law enforcement have considered and called for the National Guard to be deployed along the border to protect it. The National Guard has been used before to provide short term security to the southern border, as recently as in years 2010 and 2006, when 1,200 and 6,000, respectively, National Guard members were funded by the Federal Government but placed under control of the governors of the states that abut the border.
Of course, the role of the National Guard can be different to the U.S. Border Patrol and the local law enforcement because they are prohibited under Title 18 (Posse Comitatus Act) and Title 10, unless explicitly authorized by the U.S. Constitution, from acting to perform civilian law enforcement tasks.
Under Title 32 it is not clear whether illegal border crossings are “a threat or aggression” against the U.S. domestic population that would permit the National Guard to participate in law enforcement activities for illegal border entries. Consideration should also be given to the fact that most National Guard members are already employed in the public or private sector and have families in a different location then where they are deployed for these short term operations on the border.
So, instead, why not take this prime opportunity to employ military members who gave so many years to serve their country. Most service members being separated from the military are being offered, or are entitled to, partial or full retirement pensions.
When a service member is employed by the federal government, after they have served, they are often allowed to “buy back” their retirement, meaning they pay an amount to continue to accrue their entitlements for final retirement, or alternatively, some federal jobs offer the opportunity to earn a reduced amount taking into account the pension supplementing the person’s income.
So, the U.S. government now has a prime opportunity to take and employ a highly skilled permanent force on the U.S. border. Is this not a better use of federal funds than what will be allocated for the National Guard, immediate partial and full pensions, and possibly welfare and food stamps if a significant portion of these 100,000+ service members are unable to find jobs?
Tisha Panter is a Senior Attorney and Director of Research for the Senate Minority Research Office in Honolulu, Hawaii