April 17, 2018

Udall Questions National Guard about Strategy on US Border

Guard chief was first notified of border plan when Trump mentioned it at a press conference

Udall also urges support for MOMS Leave Act and future flying mission for NM National Guard

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/KuKmw7XfoP0

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, questioned the chief of the National Guard Bureau about President Trump’s apparently unplanned announcement that he would send National Guard members to the border with Mexico.

Udall has been a vocal opponent of Trump’s call for a wall along the entire border and he has called into question Trump’s plan to send troops there. During today’s hearing about the fiscal year 2019 budget for the National Guard, Udall reminded National Guard Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel that in the past, the Guard has been called to the border to act as a force multiplier when crime and violence were at record highs and there was “an actual threat to safety along the border.” For example, the Guard assisted with security in 2010 when there was a significant spike in cartel activity, Udall said.

“But today, the facts on the ground just don’t support what the president has called for,” Udall said.

“Sheriff Vigil, of Doña Ana County – which is on the border in New Mexico – met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week. Sheriff Vigil says the border isn’t experiencing the crisis the Trump administration claims. And he says building a wall and sending in National Guard troops would be a waste of money,” Udall said. “The Police Chief in Sunland Park has a view of the border fence from his office. He says they have very little immigration-related crime. Sunland Park was just named the second-safest city in New Mexico. Sheriff Vigil says – and I agree – that smart border technology would be a much more effective and efficient security investment.”

Udall said that made him wonder whether the president had done any research or consultation before announcing his decision at a news conference. “Prior to the president’s announcement two weeks ago, had the White House consulted with you or anyone in your leadership to discuss the possibility of sending National Guard troops to the border?” Udall asked. “The president … said, ‘Until we can have a wall, we are going to be guarding our border with the military.’ That suggests that he didn’t get his wall, so this is a kind of a supplement to that.”

Lengyel responded to Udall’s first question: “Senator, prior to the 4th, no one consulted with me about sending people to the border.”

Udall also asked about two other priorities for the National Guard and Reserve:

First, Udall pressed Lengyel to support his proposal with Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to ensure that female service members of the Reserve component receive points for six unit training assemblies toward retirement after normal pregnancy and childbirth. Udall introduced the bill as part of the National Defense Authorization Act last year, but it was opposed by the Pentagon. He said he will reintroduce the measure, the Mothers of Military Service (MOMS) Leave Act, this year.

“There are approximately 153,802 women in the National Guard and Reserves who are currently not entitled to be paid maternity leave,” Udall said. “The National Guard Association of the U.S. has given full support to fix this problem, yet I have received pushback from the Department of Defense stating in essence that this proposal is too expensive. I believe this is outrageous considering the record amount of money this committee has approved for the DOD in recent years… Would you agree that taking care of our female service-members after childbirth is an important effort to ensure retention of female reservists and guards-members and also an important job for any leader?... Can I count on your support inside the Pentagon to address this issue and help make this legislative fix?”

Lengyel said Udall could count on him to support the legislation.

Second, Udall urged Lengyel to make good on a plan to ensure that every one of the 54 states and territories has at least one unit-equipped wing and flying squadron. New Mexico is one of just four states without a flying mission.

“I asked last year whether there was a plan in place to ensure New Mexico will be unit equipped with a sustainable and viable mission in the near future. I mentioned that the CV-22 mission was one possible option for the 150th ANG, and last year I led a letter from the New Mexico delegation to [Air Force Secretary Heather] Wilson urging the transfer of HH-60G’s to the 150th,” Udall said. “What is the current status of getting a flying mission back to New Mexico. Is there any reason why New Mexico, a border state with excellent flying conditions and mountainous terrain perfect for training, should be without a flying mission?”
Lengyel responded that he is not aware of a plan for a unit-equipped mission. Udall responded: “Well, we’re going to keep pushing for one, and we hope that you’ll find a way to do this.”