June 30, 2006 in Nation/World

Guard’s troop strength at border falling short

Aaron C. Davis Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Bush administration has been unable to muster even half of the 2,500 National Guardsmen it planned to have on the Mexican border by the end of June.

As of Thursday, the next-to-last day of the month, fewer than 1,000 troops were in place, according to military officials in the four border states of Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona.

President Bush’s plan called for all 50 states to send troops. But only 10 states have signed on.

Some state officials have argued that they cannot free up Guardsmen because of flooding in the East, wildfires in the West or the prospect of hurricanes in the South.

Bush’s plan for stemming illegal immigration by using National Guardsmen in a support role called for 2,500 troops to be on the border by today, and 6,000 by the end of July.

But National Guard officials said Thursday that they probably won’t reach the 2,500 target until early to mid-July and won’t make the 6,000 deadline, either. Also, they said the number of troops will fluctuate from week to week over the course of the two-year mission.

“We now anticipate major waves in our deployment. There won’t always be 6,000. That will be the maximum,” said Kristine Munn, spokeswoman for the National Guard Bureau, an arm of the Pentagon. South Carolina’s adjutant general said Wednesday he wants to wait until after hurricane season to send 150 Guardsmen.

“If we have a storm like Katrina hit, we’d have every Guard member who’s not in Iraq somewhere out on the street,” said South Carolina Guard spokesman Col. Pete Brooks.

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