WASHINGTON – National Guard troops deployed last year to the U.S.-Mexico border are being withdrawn a year sooner than expected, to the dismay of state and local officials.
"The drawdown of Operation Jump Start's strength level is ill-timed and should be halted and re-examined," Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano wrote in a letter last week to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, according to a report Thursday in The Washington Times.
"Arizona remains a problematic border in the Southwest region, and the long-planned drawdown in personnel and patrol is premature," she said.
The reductions — being referred to as a "gradual phaseout" by the Department of Homeland Security — began in July and are expected to be complete by September, reducing the troops in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas from 6,000 to 3,000.
In 2006, Bush laid out the plan as part of the effort to sustain border enforcement while hiring 6,000 new border agents by the end of 2008.
"I reject the assertion that the gradual phaseout of the National Guard is going to have a corresponding impact on criminal activity at the border," DHS spokesman Russ Knocke told the paper. "We have more Border Patrol agents than when we started Operation Jump Start, more vehicle barriers, more personnel."