NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A new disagreement has emerged between Governor Rick Perry and the Obama Administration about border security. It centers around the state’s use of unmanned aircraft or drones along the Texas-Mexico border.
During a briefing Wednesday with some of the 1,000 National Guard troops heading to the border at Camp Swift south of Austin, Gov. Perry announced, “We’ve asked the FAA for allowed use of drones to be able to look down 24/7 in all kinds of weather to analyze what’s going on with activities along the border and to date, they have refused to do that. I don’t know why they wouldn’t allow us to be able to use assets that we actually have in the state.”
When questioned further, a spokeswoman with the Governor’s office said they have made multiple requests to the federal government and haven’t heard from the Federal Aviation Administration or Department of Defense. But the FAA tells a different story.
A spokesman in the agency’s Fort Worth office said the Texas Air National Guard made some informal inquiries about what it would take to fly unmanned aircraft along the border. The FAA said it told the state how to apply, but that the state never submitted an official request. The agency has already approved several uses of drones at the border including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
The Governor repeated another request.
He asked the federal government to reimburse the state for conducting Operation Strong Safety. The Texas Legislative Budget Board now estimates it will cost state taxpayers up to $18 million a month for the operation. That includes the border surge operations conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety in addition to the National Guard troops. By the end of the year, that could amount to about $90 million. Governor Perry has identified $38 million from within DPS’ budget, but he didn’t specify Wednesday where the rest of the money would come from. Unless the federal government reimburses the state, the Texas legislature will have to find the money when it reconvenes in January.
Some Democrats have criticized sending the guard troops to the border, saying it would unnecessarily militarize the border.
But Governor Perry disagreed and said many state lawmakers agree with him. “The vast majority of them are supportive of what our guard and DPS are doing. They understand the importance of them. They understand the people of the state support what we’re doing.”
While at Camp Swift, commanders showed the Governor some of the enhanced optics guard troops will be trained to use at the border to conduct long-range surveillance. Perry said while Border Patrol agents focus on the unaccompanied children from Central America and others who are illegally crossing into Texas, the guard troops will help DPS keep drug cartels and gangs out.
“You’re the tip of the spear protecting Americans from the cartels and gangs. These are narco-terrorists because they are terrorizing America,” said Perry.
While the Governor asked for 1,000 national guard troops to voluntarily take part in the border operation, he said 2,200 have actually stepped up and answered the call.
He thanked the troops and said, “But I also tell people what did you expect, this is Texas.”
The Governor wouldn’t give specifics about when the troops would arrive at the border, but the state has previously said it hopes all of them would be in place by the end of August.
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