GAO on Militarizing the Southern Border

GAO on Militarizing the Southern Border

"GAO found challenges for the National Guard and for active-duty military forces in providing support to law enforcement missions. For example, under Title 32 of the United States Code, National Guard personnel are permitted to participate in law enforcement activities; however, the Secretary of Defense has precluded National Guard forces from making arrests while performing border missions because of concerns raised about militarizing the U.S. border. As a result, all arrests and seizures at the southwest border are performed by the Border Patrol. Further, DOD officials cited restraints on the direct use of active duty forces, operating under Title 10 of the United States Code in domestic civilian law enforcement, set out in the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. In addition, GAO has reported on the varied availability of DOD units to support law enforcement missions, such as some units being regularly available while other units (e.g., ground-based surveillance teams) may be deployed abroad—making it more difficult to fulfill law enforcement requests.

Federal officials stated a number of broad issues and concerns regarding any additional DOD assistance in securing the southwest border. DOD officials expressed concerns about the absence of a comprehensive strategy for southwest border security and the resulting challenges to identify and plan a DOD role. DHS officials expressed concerns that DOD’s border assistance is ad hoc in that DOD has other operational requirements. DOD assists when legal authorities allow and resources are available, whereas DHS has a continuous mission to ensure border security. Further, Department of State and DOD officials expressed concerns about the perception of a militarized U.S. border with Mexico, especially when Department of State and Justice officials are helping civilian law enforcement institutions in Mexico on border issues." - GAO, Apr. 17, 2012.