Texas Border Security - A Strategic Military Assessment - TX Ag Commissioner Todd Staples
The Texas Border is a war zone. Despite sarcastic jokes and comments from the Department of Homeland Security and President Obama, thousands of people are being killed. Kidnapping, rape and assaults are commonplace throughout the region. While the violence is mostly contained south of the border, the war zone is impacting the lives of residents and ranchers who live and work in South Texas as well as other residents of Texas and the United States. This week, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples unveiled a 182 page report titled, TEXAS BORDER SECURITY: A Strategic Military Assessment.
Commissioner Staples commissioned the report from military experts, Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey and Retired Army Major General Robert Scales, PhD. Gen. McCaffrey serves as a national security and terrorism analyst for NBC News and was the former Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Prior to that he was the Commander-in-Chief of US Armed Forces Southern Command. Maj. Gen. Scales earned the Silver Star during the infamous Vietnam War battle "Hamburger Hill". He served in serveral command and staff positions and ended his military career as Commandant of the US Army War College.
The following video introduces the report. This is perhaps the most detailed assessment of the activities of the NARCO Terrorist Drug Cartels ever released to the public. The intent is not to alarm, but rather to raise the awareness of the public to a problem that is vastly under-reported by the main stream media and the Obama Administration.
Following is the Executive Summary of the report. In the following weeks, TexasGOPVote will bring more detailed reports on this topic including key interviews with Texas officials who are directly involved in protecting the citizens of Texas.
TEXAS BORDER SECURITY:
A Strategic Military Assessment
During the past two years the state of Texas has become increasingly threatened by the spread of Mexican cartel organized crime. The threat reflects a change in the strategic intent of the cartels to move their operations into the United States. In effect, the cartels seek to create a “sanitary zone” inside the Texas border -- one county deep -- that will provide sanctuary from Mexican law enforcement and, at the same time, enable the cartels to transform Texas’ border counties into narcotics transshipment points for continued transport and distribution into the continental United States. To achieve their objectives the cartels are relying increasingly on organized gangs to provide expendable and unaccountable manpower to do their dirty work. These gangs are recruited on the streets of Texas cities and inside Texas prisons by top-tier gangs who work in conjunction with the cartels.
Strategic, Operational and Tactical Levels of Conflict
The authors of this report, both retired senior military executives bring more than 80 years of military and governmental service to their perspective on Texas border security viewed in terms of the classic levels of conflict: strategic, operational and tactical.
America’s fight against narco-terrorism, when viewed at the strategic level, takes on the classic trappings of a real war. Crime, gangs and terrorism have converged in such a way that they form a collective threat to the national security of the United States. America is being assaulted not just from across our southern border but from across the hemisphere and beyond. All of Central and South America have become an interconnected source of violence and terrorism. Drug cartels exploit porous borders using all the traditional elements of military force, including command and control, logistics, intelligence, information operations and the application of increasingly deadly firepower. The intention is to increasingly bring governments at all levels throughout the Americas under the influence of international cartels.
In the United States the operational level of the campaign against cartel terrorism is manifested at the state. Texas has become critical terrain and operational ground zero in the cartel’s effort to expand into the United States. Texas has an expansive border with drug cartels controlling multiple shipping lanes into the state. Texas’ location as the geographic center of the U.S. allows for easier distribution of drugs and people. In effect, the fight for control of the border counties along the Rio Grande has become the operational center of gravity for the cartels and federal, state and local forces that oppose them.
At the tactical level of war the cartels seek to gain advantage by exploiting the creases between U.S. federal and state border agencies, and the separation that exists between Mexican and American crime-fighting agencies. Border law enforcement and political officials are the tactical focal point. Sadly, the tactical level is poorly resourced and the most vulnerable to corruption by cartels. To win the tactical fight the counties must have augmentation, oversight and close support from operational and strategic forces. History has shown that a common border offers an enemy sanctuary zone and the opportunity to expand his battlespace in depth and complexity. Our border with Mexico is no exception. Criminality spawned in Mexico is spilling over into the United States. Texas is the tactical close combat zone and frontline in this conflict. Texans have been assaulted by cross-border gangs and narco-terrorist activities. In response, Texas has been the most aggressive and creative in confronting the threat of what has come to be a narco-terrorist military-style campaign being waged against them.
Texas as a Narco-Sanctuary
A successful sanctuary permits insurgents to move freely and operate on whichever side offers greater security. In a curious twist of irony, the more successful the Mexican military becomes in confronting the cartels, the greater likelihood that cartels will take the active fight into Texas as they compete against each other in the battle to control distribution territories and corridors Federal authorities are reluctant to admit to the increasing cross-border campaign by narcoterrorists. Until lately, denial has been facilitated by a dearth of evidence that an organized and substantial campaign exists inside Texas. Evidence collected for this report, principally from Texas border counties, reveals a palpable sense of frustration concerning the effectiveness of U.S. federal border operations.
Accounts of this violence, both data driven and anecdotal, compiled by federal agencies, Congressional testimony and the Texas Department of Agriculture underscores the daily activity and constant threat of a larger presence of narco-terrorists than previously thought. The Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not attribute many narco-crimes to the cartels. Many cross-border crimes are routinely not reported by border farmers and ranchers due to fear of retribution from cartels.
The cartel’s foot soldiers who fight the tactical battle in Texas are "transnational gang" members many of whom are drawn from prison gangs such as the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Tango Blast, Barrio Azteca and others that formed in U.S. prisons for selfpreservation and protection from other gangs. These transnational gangs not only have continued to expand in Texas and the nation but constitute a very tightly knit network of cooperation and connectivity that has been growing between prison gangs and Mexican cartels.
Impact on Texans
Fear and anxiety levels among Texas farmers and ranchers have grown enormously during the past two years. Farmers, ranchers and other citizens in border communities are caught in the crossfire of escalating cross-border violence resulting in large part from conflicts between cartels, paramilitary enforcement groups and transnational gangs struggling for control of key drug and illegal alien smuggling routes into the U.S. from El Paso to Brownsville. Some Texas farmers and ranchers have even abandoned their livelihoods to move their families to safer ground.
Living and conducting business in a Texas border county is tantamount to living in a war zone in which civil authorities, law enforcement agencies as well as citizens are under attack around the clock. The Rio Grande River offers little solace to the echoes of gunshots and explosions. News of shootings, murders, kidnappings, beheadings, mass graves and other acts of violence coming across the border go far beyond any definition of “spillover violence.”
Texas Joins the War
Because Texas is the frontline in this conflict and because its citizens and institutions are most affected, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has developed a comprehensive military-like operational campaign against narco-terrorists. This effort is still growing and changing in response to an adaptive and ruthless enemy that still harbors an intense desire to take its campaign into the United States. Five years of effort to curtail narco-terrorist intrusion has given the Texas DPS and its state and local partners enormous and hard-won experience in the art and science of fighting the southwest border war.
Beginning in 2006, Texas began a series of high-intensity, sequential, short-duration operations that resulted in crime reductions ranging from 25 percent to as high as 75 percent as smuggling operations decreased. Later, the state expanded and lengthened these operations by increasing the patrol presence along the Texas-Mexico border. Governor Perry was able to achieve this expansion of effort by leveraging various discretionary grants to increase local and state patrol capacity along the border through overtime payments and the purchase of communications and surveillance equipment as well as new vehicles and weapons. The governor also committed Texas military forces to support these operations.
To gain support from the citizenry, in 2007 the Texas Legislature created the Border Security Council (BSC) charged with advising the governor regarding the allocation of discretionary state homeland security funds. The BSC held a series of public hearings and received testimony from business owners, law enforcement officers, local elected officials and private citizens and then produced a comprehensive report and recommendations on border security issues for the governor and Texas Legislature.
Organization for Combat
The state of Texas organized for combat in a manner familiar to the military by creating six Unified Commands (UCs) each staffed with a Joint Operations and Intelligence Center (JOICs) located principally within Texas cities most threatened by cartel violence. This Texas effort, led by the Texas Rangers, is dependent on a cooperative relationship based not on command authority, but on a shared relationship, trust and commitment to work together.
This cooperative group of players is represented by federal, state, local and military components. The heart and operational engine of the Texas border security effort is located in Austin within the Border Security Operations Center (BSOC). All unified command and joint players intersect in a single facility administered by the Texas Ranger Division of the DPS. The BSOC collects and shares information from all state, local and federal agencies.
Six years of experience has produced a collaborative interagency network that has grown by establishing trust and confidence among network participants from strategic through tactical. The comity engendered through successful operation allows the BSOC team to chip away at bureaucratic cultures and mindsets. Such experience serves to generate interpersonal incentives and rewards selflessness and a commitment to collaborative behavior.
Years of experimentation and field operations have yielded a wealth of lessons learned as well as new materiel, tactics and doctrine unique to Texas but capable of being shared by other state and federal border security agencies. The BSOC operates using a statewide mapping system that graphically displays and shares with unified commands and federal agencies a crime map that includes all drug, cash and weapons seizures. It fuses information from other state and federal agencies. Texas has developed cheap and effective locally procured wildlife cameras linked to the Internet that are capable of passing images in real time to state authorities.
Texas Rangers Lead the Fight
The first principle of Texas border security operations is to empower local law enforcement. Soldiers often say that bad strategies cannot be salvaged by good tactics--- but bad tactics can defeat a good strategy. This saying simply reinforces the truism that no national strategy that seeks to defeat narco-terrorism can be adequately confronted unless tactical units, such as local police and federal border security stations, are properly staffed, resourced, competent and well-led.
The Texas Rangers lead a cooperative program that brings together a ground, air and marine assault capability. Ranger Reconnaissance Teams are the tactical combat elements in the war against narco-terrorists. Each participating federal, state and local agency voluntarily adds its unique capabilities to the teams. The Texas Highway Patrol acts as an outer perimeter for the Rangers by funneling traffic toward Ranger border positions. Tactical contact teams, deploying along the Rio Grande in small, concealed positions, are able to respond immediately to intelligence from Autonomous Surveillance Platform (ASP) units, DPS and National Guard surveillance helicopters, as well as calls to UCs from local police or citizens. DPS Dive Teams conduct SONAR scans of the Rio Grande and assist in recovery of vehicles and contraband in splashdown areas.
Resources remain the greatest impediment to the expansion and continued success of the Rangers’ border war against the cartels. Budget cuts for DHS, its Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the United States Coast Guard USCG) have severely constrained the ability of Texas to rely on its federal partners and their resources to expand border operations.
A Successful System Under Threat
Years of collective effort by Texas law enforcement have yielded a remarkably flexible and efficient system of border protection that involves all levels of command from federal to local. This system is under threat not only by an increasingly ruthless and adaptive enemy but also by an increasingly diminished budget.
Without question, the future success of this effort will depend on the ability of the state of Texas, local and federal agencies to work together to expand their war against intrusion by cartels. The bottom line, however, is that while today Texas is the frontline in this escalating war, the potential consequences of success or failure will affect our entire nation. Thus, it is up to the nation to support Texas in its efforts to defeat this transnational criminal enterprise.
Communications and the Network:
A truly seamless joint effort between federal, state and local law enforcement cannot occur unless all of the players are connected by an integrated broadband system. Such a system must network all land, air and maritime communications systems. It also must be robust enough to connect the smallest border town police departments (with adequate cyber-security controls) to the most sophisticated national domestic intelligence networks. Only a consortium of federal and state and local resources can make such an expansive effort affordable and successful.
The success of border operations by the Texas Rangers should serve as a template for the future. Federal border security agencies should continue to support and enhance the current joint operational framework established by the state of Texas and tactically implemented by the Texas Rangers. Reform at that operational level is dependent on bringing more “boots on the ground” to the fight for border security to include a greater participation by the National Guard under state control. All agencies involved should develop a framework and establish an alliance for integrated cross border planning, intelligence sharing, communications and synchronized operations. Such an effort must include all legal, procedural and policy changes necessary to break down bureaucratic, cultural and mind-set barriers that currently exist between front line local, state and federal participants.
Reform of the border security intelligence system must begin with more sophisticated cross-border technical and human intelligence collection about the enemy coupled with the ability to offer a clearer digital picture of the battlefield to border tactical forces. Key to this effort must be a quantum improvement in the ability of the federal intelligence agencies to gather, analyze and disseminate actionable intelligence and information in real time with state and local law enforcement. Federal support is also needed to accelerate enhancement of the Department of Public Safety’s TxMAP system for Intelligence mapping and data base support.
The state of Texas should develop a plan for Federal funding and participation in a “Joint Technology Development Center.” The creation of a joint Federal and state “skunk works” effort would combine federal financial and scientific research assets with the proven success of Texas’ efforts to apply off the shelf technologies to winning the battle for border security. Such an effort would focus on technologies to detect, track, assess, classify, interdict and prosecute criminals along the Southwest border region. Technological areas with the most promise include meshing networks, low cost un-manned ground sensors, ground surveillance radars, remote cameras, aerial platforms, thermal and night vision capabilities, command and control facilities, state of the art weapons and sighting systems as well as identification systems connected to dynamic and inclusive data bases.
No amount of well-intended effort will completely eliminate the natural operational friction that exists between disparate federal, state and local agencies confronting these lethal and well-resourced Mexican criminal cartels. Decades of experience in fighting our nation’s foreign wars have shown time and again that reducing operational friction can best be achieved by a system that enhances shared awareness and mutual understanding. To this end, Texas should establish an effort that teaches all participants “how Texas border operations work.” The Texas effort would be based on proven joint military programs. The Texas and federal partners must bring together all participants into a single in-resident and virtual classroom to learn the detailed procedures, statutes, organizations, doctrine, tactical methods and rules of engagement. Faculty and funding would be shared by experienced operators from all levels of law enforcement, federal to local.
END OF SUMMARY
NOTE: This author will be providing additional information from this report as well as conducting exclusive interviews with some of the key members of the Texas Border Defense team. Please share this information with anyone concerned about the future of our country and the impact of narco-terrorism throughout out country.
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Texas Security Report
What I am curious about with this report is both its obvious political agenda and the somewhat anecdotal nature of the data. I am also curious regarding the final objective of the 'Narco-terrorists' as to whether they want every county along the border for their sanctuary or just a few counties where they presently have strong influence?
That there is a 'problem' is not in question. (See the works of author Charles Bowden) Whether it is as dire as Commissioner Staples and Gen. McCaffrey state, is the issue. How can their assertions be tested? We do not have a strong press corps in this area, and that surely needs to be remedied. (More studies?) Is this a problem that both Republicans and Democrats need to address jointly and ASAP?
If Staples and McCaffery are right, then we are years late in dealing with the issue. As the old question goes, What Is To Be Done?
How can we find out more, true, and verifiable information on this important question?
Have we wasted our country's treasure in the Middle East while a greater threat sits right on our border boring quiet holes in cities all over our country? Do we need to further 'militarize' our border? Will it help? Should the US risk having a 'presence' in Mexico? Is the situation going to continue to deteriorate if we do not act? Will it continue to deteriorate even if we do?
Thank you for the comments
Thanks for your comments. You raise some interesting questions I will attempt to answer or get an answer for.
To your question about whether Democrats and Republicans should come together on this and address it jointly? Absolutely! And actually, there has been much work already done jointly through the Texas Legislature in committing additional funds, resources and manpower to the border area.
Please keep in mind that the information published in this article is just the Executive Summary of the document. The entire report is 182 pages and is much more detailed. I will be bringing out more of the report over time and providing additional information through interviews with state officials on this issue.
In your last paragraph, you address some very good questions. Yes, I believe we should increase military presence along the border through the use of the National Guard. But these guard troops should be paid for by the federal government. Congressman Ted Poe has a proposal in Congress to do just that.
More on this topic to follow. Please stay tuned.