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Feds cut aerial surveillance at Mexican border

By   /   February 2, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

The Obama administration is cutting back on border security that Congress has already funded and is drawing bipartisan criticism from Texans in the process.

Operation Phalanx, a surveillance program that employs military units to aid in border security, faces a 50 percent cut at the Department of Homeland Security – even though it was fully funded by Congress.

AP file photo

STRADDLING A FENCE: Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar criticized the Obama administration for reducing surveillance on the border. Previously the Laredo congressman encouraged use of executive orders to address immigration problems.

The DHS move drew fire from Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

“It has come to our attention that for calendar year 2016 the DHS requested 3,850 hours of persistent aerial detection, situational awareness and monitoring capability support for Operation Phalanx from the Department of Defense. This was 50 percent lower than that of recent years,” Cuellar and Abbott wrote Monday in a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Since 2005, Texas has committed nearly $1.7 billion in state funds to border security. In addition, the state provides manpower, resources and oversight in support of Operation Phalanx through the Texas National Guard.

“It is our expectation that the federal government similarly fulfill its obligation when it comes to securing the border,” Cuellar and Abbott wrote.

Unlike Abbott, a persistent critic of President Barack Obama’s wide-ranging exercise of executive privilege, Cuellar previously called for the White House to take unilateral action on immigration.

Last September, Abbott’s office requested additional aerial observation resources along the Mexican border, a point reiterated in Monday’s letter. “Given the recent surge of migrants from Central America and Cuba along the southern border, we believe DHS should request more surveillance and security resources, not fewer,” Cuellar and Abbott wrote.

Last year’s plea went unanswered.

“The fact that DHS now appears to be taking the opposite approach is unsettling,” Abbott said.

DHS did not immediately respond to the latest Texas complaint.

Kenric Ward writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]. @Kenricward


Kenric Ward is the San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org. A California native and veteran journalist who has worked on three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, he received a BA from UCLA (Political Science/Phi Beta Kappa) and holds an MBA. He reported and edited at the San Jose Mercury News and the Las Vegas Sun before joining Watchdog.org in 2012 and previously reported from Virginia. Kenric can be reached at [email protected]