Texas Military Department leaders told state officials that they need more than $500 million to continue Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial border mission, The Texas Tribune reports.
Abbott deployed the state National Guard to the US-Mexico border ostensibly to patrol the area. But the cost of Operation Lone Star, which deployed 10,000 guardsmen, is costing the state $2 billion per year.
The legislature had only budgeted $412 million for the operation. State officials already transferred another $480 million to the Military Department to continue but leaders said this week that they need another $531 million to keep going past this fiscal year.
State Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, the only Democrat on the Senate Border Security Committee, slammed the request.
“I think, quite frankly, you can do the same job, border security, with a lot less troops,” he said. “I really don’t understand the number of having to use 10,000 National Guard troops for border security.”
Abbott and the Department of Public Safety have repeatedly bragged that the mission has disrupted drug and human smuggling networks but those claims “have been based on shifting metrics that have included crimes with no connection to the border and work conducted before the operation,” according to the Tribune.
Troops have also complained about poor living conditions around the border, problems with pay and adequate gear, and that the mission was a political ploy for Abbott, who is running for re-election.
Some soldiers demur:
Some soldiers have complained that they were deployed on missions they did not want to take part in.
“Some soldiers just don’t want to be here,” Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Branch said. “Unfortunately, we don't get to pick and choose our deployments.”
Branch insisted that while the mission started out “rough,” the department has sought to address concerns.
“I can guarantee that if a soldier is having issues and that they need help, they will have help. That is without question,” he said. “We go over and above, out of our ways to help them.”