Texas lawmakers and security officials have asked the Pentagon to send surplus military equipment from Iraq to the US-Mexico border. This could include more unmanned planes, even though the effectiveness of the technology in fighting drug trafficking is questionable.
US congressmen Henry Cuellar and Ted Poe, both Republicans representing Texas, recently wrote a public letter to the Pentagon, asking that surplus gear used in Iraq be made more widely available for border security operations.
The letter notes that state law enforcement agencies are facing increasingly tight budgets, which could restrict their ability to monitor the border. Instead of putting military gear left over from Iraq operations into storage, the letter suggests it would be more beneficial and cost-effective to deploy the equipment to the border.
Representative Poe introduced a bill to Congress last year asking that 10 percent of some types of military equipment returning from Iraq be transferred to federal and state agencies responsible for border security. The equipment named in the bill includes aerial drones, night-vision goggles, and Humvee vehicles.
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Poe and Cuellar’s request is indicative of concerns that with state budget shortfalls, Texas is not capable of properly funding law enforcement along its border with Mexico. One small town in east Texas, far from the frontier, had to fire its entire police force last year due to budget tightening. It’s unlikely that Texas will see such drastic security cuts in towns along the border — it would be political suicide — but one of the main thrusts to Poe and Cuellar’s argument seems to be that recycling equipment from Iraq makes sense during lean economic times.
Reusing the military equipment is thrifty, but it may not be effective in terms of actually delivering results. As an assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) pointed out last year, the total cost of putting drones in the air amounts to $3,234 per hour. Intelligence from drones, however, has only contributed to a fraction of the total number of drug smugglers and undocumented migrants arrested in the 2011 fiscal year, according to the Washington Post.