National Guard Deployment Along the Rio Grande is Now Underway

Note: This story originally appeared on The Quorum Report. Join us there daily for coverage of Texas politics and government. 

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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, R-Texas, thanks National Guardsmen for their service in Bastrop, Texas.

BASTROP – The “force multiplier” for the border surge touted by Gov. Perry and other members of the state’s Republican leadership is now becoming a reality as up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops begin to leave their training station in the central part of the state not far from Austin and head for the Rio Grande Valley.

Major Gen. John F. Nichols, Texas’ adjutant general, confirmed to reporters during a news conference Monday at Camp Swift that the deployment is now underway. Though he would not give specific numbers, Nichols said fewer than 700 troops are now training at the installation north of Bastrop and south of Elgin. More than 300 are either on the border or on their way, Nichols said.

About two weeks ago, the Texas Senate Finance Committee heard testimony that 700 of those National Guardsmen were receiving their training in Central Texas. So, things are moving along – even if it’s at a slower pace than some might expect given the urgent tone of Gov. Perry’s pronouncements about the situation.

“We’re all going to be there very shortly,” Nichols said, again not getting into the specifics of how shortly that might actually be.

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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst alongside Major Gen. John F. Nichols speaking with reporters at Camp Swift, Texas.

“Texas is not as safe as it should be because of the failure of the federal government to secure our border,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said after receiving a briefing from military commanders at Camp Swift. Dewhurst told reporters that he could easily see the stepped up presence of DPS troopers along the border along with the deployment of National Guard lasting well into next year. That squares with the prior testimony of Gen. Nichols.

“The commitment of the National Guard is a cool factor,” Dewhurst said, referring to the dedication of the volunteer force and the kinds of equipment they’ll be using to confront those intent on illegally crossing the international boundary.

Part of the state’s objective in spending an initial $38 million for the troop deployment, Dewhurst said, is to show leaders in Washington including President Obama that investment in this kind of border security can pay off. “They (the feds) need to replace the DPS with federal Border Patrol,” he said.

Dewhurst rejected the concerns of some border business and political leaders about potential economic fallout resulting from the image projected by the border surge.

In a letter to Perry dated July 29, McAllen Chamber of Commerce President Steve Ahlenius said “deploying the Guard to the border sends the wrong image to 200 South Korean and Japanese companies who are considering moving manufacturing facilities to McAllen.”

Ahlenius told QR that Asian business interests who have invested heavily in the region were quite surprised during a recent visit when they saw Gov. Perry riding the gunboat down the Rio Grande. “They were asking us ‘what’s up with this and is it something serious that we need to be aware of?’” Ahlenius told those businessmen it was not a real concern and the border surge is all about politics, not substance.

Dewhurst said that as a lifelong businessman himself, the stepped up security should give those investors more confidence, not less. “Would you rather have thousands and thousands of people crossing the border each day …or would you rather have the border secure?” Dewhurst said. “It helps, doesn’t hurt.”

Some observers said Dewhurst looked almost presidential as he thanked guardsmen gathered in a hot steel building on the dusty base.

“I take, literally, my hat off to you,” Dewhurst said. “We couldn’t do this mission without you,” he said to the troops who spent most of the day training for their deployment in the triple-digit heat.

Copyright August 25, 2014, Harvey Kronberg,, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission. 

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