Operation Jump Start: Failure by Design

A “Mission Accomplished” banner is the only thing missing to complete the border security version of the President’s notorious 2003 carrier fly-in declaring victory in Iraq, in light of the Administration’s order to begin withdrawal of the National Guard from our southern border. 

This, while hundreds of thousands of unidentified foreign nationals — in a time of war against terrorists — are swarming past our undermanned and outgunned Border Patrol and National Guard. 

Yet the unintended consequence of this planned failure has been to undeniably confirm that the original 2005 call for 36,000 troops to secure the southern border by the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) would in fact succeed, and could be accomplished within a single week if the President — or our Governors — would simply issue the orders. 

Operation Jump Start: Success or Failure?

The Administration calls their deployment a success, citing a 24% reduction in illegal entrant arrests during the course of the mission.   That’s the reason the border Governors are pleading for the troops to stay — it has made a positive, if limited difference with the Guard in place, even with inadequate numbers to truly secure the border.

But what does that 24% reduction really say?  Of course no one knows for sure, but up to a million illegal aliens are estimated to infiltrate the U.S. each year across the southern border.  So with 6,000 Guardsmen in place, only 760,000 illegal aliens successfully infiltrated the United States.  

Let’s review. We deployed the National Guard to secure the southern border against illegal entry.  As many as three-quarters of a million unidentified foreign nationals — five times our military deployment in Iraq — got through anyway.

That’s not a success.  That’s a colossal failure, unless you count photo ops of the National Guard on the border as the real mission.   

This failure to secure our border is in no way a reflection on our National Guard or Border Patrol.  They performed their assigned duties in Operation Jump Start professionally and flawlessly, under the Administration’s rules of deployment, engagement, and allowed resources. As soldiers and federal law enforcement agents sworn to obey the Commander-in-Chief that is all they can do.  Their performance under those restrictions was phenomenal. We can be proud of every soldier and agent who participated in Operation Jump Start.

The problem is the mission was not designed to secure the border.  It was designed to create the political illusion that the Administration was moving to secure the border. 
Last year, Human Events published an article by Norwood laying out the difference between a real deployment and a political farce.  The story behind the story is even more telling.

A Real Troop Deployment

Norwood’s original call for 36,000 troops to the southern border was researched and published in his 2005 report to the House Immigration Reform Caucus, “Results and Implications of the Minuteman Project.” 

Based on an inspection of volunteer posts and resulting changes in illegal immigration numbers reported by Border Patrol officers in the field during the Minuteman project on the border in April 2005, Norwood reported that an average posting of 18 personnel per mile would virtually end illegal immigration across our southern border.

That would allow for an average of three security posts per mile with two soldiers per post 24/7, and double that many in ready reserve to the rear.   Some areas of the border in which Border Patrol resources are concentrated and well-established would require no National Guard support; other remote desert and mountain areas would require a higher presence. Applying the average across the 2,000 mile border totals 36,000 troops.

In comparison, that’s about half the size of the 70,000 troops President Bush ordered out for Hurricane Katrina, and about a third the size of the 100,000 National Guardsmen sent to the border in 1916 by President Wilson to restore order. 

The full 36,000 would be absolutely essential based on Minuteman observations and remarkably similar demonstration projects by the Border Patrol in the 90’s.  As soon as adequate manpower is deployed to block illegal entry in one area, violators quickly move down the border to an unguarded area and continue to cross, many times helped along the way by various elements of the Mexican government.  Therefore our troops must be deployed in strength across the entire border to be effective.

Norwood also reported that the Governors themselves could order the deployment with new funding authority granted to the states under the Defense Authorization Act of 2005, which amended USC Title 32 Section 9 to allow federal funding for 90-day National Guard homeland security deployments by a Governor with the ability to extend the deployment if necessary. 

However, that new legal authority of the Governors was challenged by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2006, when Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano requested such funding to use a small contingent of her National Guard on the border.  The Department of Defense reportedly argued that securing the borders of the United States against illegal entry is not the responsibility of DOD, and the mission therefore did not qualify for DOD funding.   Before the dispute could be settled, the President announced his federal deployment, making the issue moot. 

For the edification of the nation, let’s hope that dispute is revisited.  That is a very troubling position by DOD.  If an unidentified violator is crossing our border undetected, we of course have no idea whether it is an illegal migrant seeking work or Osama bin Laden with a suitcase nuke.  Would the latter not be the responsibility of DOD and a reimbursable expense for a state’s National Guard to help prevent the destruction of, say, Phoenix?

Using standard light infantry deployment data, the 36,000-man project would cost around $2.4 billion per year.  That’s a very reasonable amount to start cutting into the minimum $70 billion per year cost to taxpayers from illegal immigration.

The Faux Troop Deployment

Immediately after publishing his report with the Caucus in May 2005, Norwood pleaded with the White House to order the deployment as a means to regain credibility with Congress and the public on immigration reform. 

If the President took decisive action that resulted in securing the southern border with 36,000 very visible troops, Norwood felt “reasonable people” in Congress could then begin a “reasonable discussion” on what to do about the overall illegal immigration issue.
It appears about half that message got through – the part about National Guard troops being visibly deployed on the border providing a spin boost with Congress and the public.   

Norwood’s efforts did win him a sneak preview of Operation Jump Start in 2006. The White House told Norwood a week before the President’s address to the nation on the project that they would deploy 10-12,000 troops instead of the report’s 36,000 minimum recommendation.  But at least it would put troops on the ground, and that would be a start.

Then the weekend before the speech Norwood was told the deployment would be reduced to just 6,000 troops, to allay Mexican President Vicente Fox’s concern that a larger deployment might skew the upcoming Mexican presidential election in favor of Lopez Obrador over Fox protégé Felipe Calderon.  Norwood was told as soon as the July 5 elections were done, the deployment would be boosted. 

But the July 5 election turned into the Mexican version of Florida 2000, and wasn’t settled until September.  Before Congressman Norwood could re-engage after the November U.S. elections, he was terminally ill with lung cancer and out of the fight, passing away in February of this year. |

Even the terms of deployment for the paltry 6,000 man force seemed designed more to prevent their effectiveness than support it.  Rather than call up troops for a six-month mission as Norwood outlined, they were called up for just two weeks at a time.  So to keep 6,000 troops on the border for a year, U.S. taxpayers paid to train and transport over a hundred thousand troops, costing nearly the same as sending the full 36,000 recommendation.

The majority weren’t even armed.   It is amazing that Minutemen volunteers were trained, armed, and on the border within days of their first meeting,  performed a month-long mission without a single firearms accident or even a shot fired, all while we apparently can’t trust our National Guard to carry a rifle anymore.

And we paid a price for that, with American troops forced to retreat from our own border when challenged by armed intruders from Mexico.   Again, don’t blame the Guard, they had to follow orders and had been denied rules of engagement that would have allowed them to defend their position.

All total, the actual terms of the deployment should have resulted in absolutely nothing being accomplished other than maybe a disaster. 

Proof in the Numbers, Even Bad Ones

That any positive results were achieved should go to the eternal credit of every National Guard member who played a part in Operation Jump Start.  They were asked to do the impossible and had the deck stacked against them.  But they still managed to pull off a serendipitous win against improbable odds by proving Norwood’s point with crystal clear results. 

They were given only 16% of Norwood’s troop strength recommendation, and still reduced illegal entries by 24%.   Had we deployed numbers anywhere close to the report recommendation, our southern border would now be closed to all but legal traffic.

The Lame Duck Border Threat

With the defeat of the Senate immigration bill over its amnesty provisions, the nation sits adrift on where next to go in dealing with our illegal immigration crisis.

The Administration is weighing in with new proposals that at first glance seem at loggerheads with each other, unless we look for a Machiavellian motive. 

First, the Administration proposes the first serious crackdown after seven years in office on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Then they follow by pulling troops back from the border, leaving open the door for new illegal aliens to enter. 

So in a few months we will have employers screaming that their businesses are being disrupted and jobs lost, while new waves of illegals pour into America. 

We can already hear the argument of the open borders crowd now: “See, enforcement alone doesn’t work, the National Guard can’t stop illegal immigration, this is why we must have ‘a comprehensive solution’.”  Read — amnesty.

This strategy is exactly what many feared when the Administration first announced that only 6,000 troops would be sent to the border.  The operation would be solely to win public approval that could be leveraged to pass an amnesty bill, while ultimately discrediting any practical ability to secure our border.

But America’s National Guard has now proved we can absolutely secure our border with a third of the commitment we showed in 1916, if we only have the will.

The Real Issue — Middle Class Survival

This issue of the border goes beyond our current illegal immigration nightmare.  If we truly can’t secure our border, then the argument of the globalists will become clear and deafening.  They will insist that it doesn’t make sense to waste any more money on maintaining borders, and that we should open them completely for a NAFTA Superhighway and a North American Union, along with tens of millions of new low-wage immigrants who will depress U.S. worker’s incomes for generations to come.   Our middle class will be devastated; a new class of super-wealthy will profit wildly.

What set America apart from the third-world economies of the privileged few and the impoverished many will be lost — an economy that distributes the majority of its wealth to the majority of its citizens through a free and fair market.

Washington in Default: Now to the Governors and Candidates

The President and Congress had their chance to secure the border, and instead turned their collective backs on the American public.  

Now it is up to our Governors.  The border state Governors can order that deployment immediately, and call on their fellow Governors around the country to come to their aid with their respective National Guard units.  

If they fail to act, a new President can bring this nightmare to a close on Inauguration Day 2008, much as President Reagan ended the Iran hostage crisis on his inauguration day through sheer strength of will.

A simple one-page executive order immediately deploying 36,000 troops to secure the southern border should do the trick.

And each candidate ought to tell us whether they will before we go to the polls.