With the American military presence in Iraq ending next month (!), and the return of over two million pieces of military gear from that conflict, the Department of Homeland Security and some members of Congress are starting to look longingly at those full containers of gear heading home.
During a hearing this morning of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, Rep. Henry Cuellar, (D-Tx.) said that “as our military is drawing down we should use DoD equipment to see if it can fill a capabilities gap here at home” along the U.S.-Mexican border, adding that he would like to see some aerostats deployed along the border to assist with surveillance.
The DoD’s Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense added that “we have a historic opportunity” to transfer technologies to the border that “the public has already paid to develop.” He called the deployment of military vehicles, sensors, radars, and other communications equipment a “one stop shopping opportunity” for Dept. of Homeland Security, adding that more than 17,000 federal, state, and local agencies have already received $2.6 billion worth of DoD equipment in recent years, with $600 million of that coming in 2011 alone. This haul includes
Twenty-seven light armored vehicles (V-150s and V-300s), worth $500,000 each.
Three C-12 aircraft worth $4 million each.
Tactical vehicles and five helicopters, worth approximately $5 million.
An excess DoD Mark II robot, originally valued at $55,000.
DoD radiological detection instrumentation and equipment.
Approximately 1,231 night vision devices on loan to 429 agencies in 48 states.
But the most interesting part of the hearing came when the witnesses talked about just how much the Border Patrol and DHS work with a host of Pentagon offices to develop equipment, conduct training exercises, and share equipment and information.
Mark Borkowski Asst. Commissioner of the DHS’ Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition specifically singled out NORTHCOM’s Joint Task Force-North as “kind of a liaison” between the Border Patrol and various Pentagon offices. JTF-North conducts DoD training exercises “that we are able to take advantage of… there is a continuing relationship with JTF-North which we have become to depend and rely on,” he said. Borkowski listed a whole host of programs that the Pentagon and the DHS are working together on, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Naval Research Lab, TRADOC, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, USAF Air Combat Command, among many others. Most interesting is the “ongoing effort” is the development of the Cross Border Secure Communications Network (CBSCN) Project, which is being managed by the DHS, the U.S. Northern Command and the government of Mexico. The idea is to install microwave equipment on both sides of the border in ten border cities “for the purpose of addressing the need for a long-term solution to cross border communications” at the local level in tracking suspects and developing cross-border situational awareness.
One DoD office that is missing, surprisingly, is the US Army Program Executive Office Integration, which runs the Army’s Network Integration Exercise technology testing program at Ft. Bliss, Tx.—which just so happens to be the same place that JTF-North calls home. One would think there are some interesting conversations going on in El Paso, no?