A Missed Opportunity to Secure Southern U.S. Border

Illegal immigrants crossing the southern border (VOA news)
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Illegal immigrants crossing the southern border (VOA news)
Illegal immigrants crossing the southern border (VOA news)

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






  1. Do we really need a more militarized zone along our southern border? I think what's really needed, especially in the central American countries like Guatemala, EL Salvador,and Honduras where a lot of illegals have been heading north lately is genuine economic growth.They need a free open market,economic and civil liberties. But our US government has actually prevented these countries to thrive by supporting a corrupt ruling family oligarchs and kleptocrats that have a strangle hold and stealing their people blind. And or government is funding an insane War On Drugs Policy in the region that is turning those countries into bloody and violent battle ground involving our military against criminal gangs and drug cartels resulting in death and destruction for the innocent civilians living there,caught in the crossfire.The War On Drugs is a failure. In Central America and here in the USA. We don't need a bigger,more intrusive Dept. of Homeland Security along our borders.That is totally UnAmerican and something that a free society should never accept. And if we really want to help all those men and women being mustered out of the military, we need genuine economic growth in America. Instead what is being proposed is more welfare/ warfare ideaology (Federal Funding for more militarized law enforcement on our borders). That does not create wealth or prosperity for the American people as a whole. It only benefits the politically connected.

  2. Putting our discharged special forces, military police, chemical warfare, and ordinance experts to work fighting nonviolent people coming across the border certainly seems like an interesting idea. Do you propose this solution for our Northern border too?

  3. What does the Republican Party stand for these days anyway? Does the Republican Party sincerely believe in and support the principals of Free Enterprise? that means economic activities FREE of government involvement and regulations.But so far, the Republicans :military build-up on immigration control. Supports Public Schools. Supports Drug Laws. Supports Social Security. supports Medicare and Medicaid. Supports Tarrifs,Embargoes,Sanctions,Import restrictions. supports Anti-Trust Laws. supports Insider-Trading Laws. supports the Federal Reserve System. supports Agriculture Subsidies. supports Student Loans.supports Education Grants. supports Minimum Wage Laws. supports Public Housing. supports income taxation and the IRS, etc,etc. So does the Democrat Party.

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