U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo
The escalating drug violence along the U.S.-Mexican border has been a growing concern to officials in Washington and on March 23, a top level delegation led by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will meet with their counterparts in Mexico City.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Director of National Intelligence will attend the Merida Initiative High-Level Consultive Group meeting, the third year such a cabinet-level meeting has been held.
Since a 2007 meeting between then-U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Merida, Mexico, the U.S. and Mexico have been cooperating in a battle against cross-border organized crime including drug trafficking, weapons smuggling and money laundering. As part of the effort, the U.S. has supplied intelligence and technical assistance, including helicopters and surveillance aircraft.
Drones for Texas
The eyes of Texas may soon be upon Homeland Security Department unmanned aircraft patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border. Texas news outlets were abuzz last week about a letter Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote Texas Gov. Rick Perry stating that an unarmed Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be dispatched later this year to patrol the troubled border along the south Texas Gulf Coast and El Paso.
That drone -- the seventh UAV operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a unit of the Homeland Security Department -- is slated to be based at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. Late last year General Atomics delivered the first maritime radar-equipped Predator -- known as the Guardian -- to CBP's Air and Marine Office. Three other CBP Predators, based at Sierra Vista, Ariz., patrol the Arizona border with Mexico. And two more of the UAVs are based at Grand Forks, N.D. to patrol the northern border.
Virtual Border Fence Virtually Dead
On another border security issue, the Obama administration has decided to halt work on the behind-schedule “virtual” fence of tower-mounted sensors, radar and cameras -- some of them moveable -- along the Mexican border, the Washington Post and other news outlets report.
The fence, part of a project known as SBInet (for Secure Border Initiative network) has been behind schedule and over budget, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a brief statement.