Skip to comments.Ridge is ready to use UAVs; Fort and county could be base for a pilot project next year
Posted on 12/04/2003 4:54:28 PM PST by SandRat
BISBEE -- The U.S. Border Patrol should be flying unmanned aerial vehicles out of Fort Huachuca next year as part of a pilot project in Cochise County, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said this morning.
After seeing the Army's UAV program on Fort Huachuca Wednesday afternoon, Ridge said the technology of the pilotless planes is what the federal agency needs to stem the flow of illegal immigrants along the border.
Ridge said the fort has everything needed for the UAV program, such as restricted airspace. Army soldiers training on UAVs also occasionally participate in Border Patrol exercises.
UAVs are "definitely a force multiplier," Ridge said today as he sat in the Copper Queen Hotel.
He spent the night in Bisbee after touring the post and flying in a helicopter along the border from Lochiel in Santa Cruz County to the New Mexico state line. Most of the flight was in Cochise County.
Ridge said his department has to leverage existing technology. The Department of Defense, especially the Army, is a leader in the type of unmanned aerial vehicles Customs and Border Patrol can use, he said.
Maj. Gen. James Marks, commander of the Intelligence Center, hosted the secretary on the fort.
Ridge's visit was good for everyone, the general said.
When Ridge arrived, a Hunter UAV took video of the secretary. When he arrived at the training area, he was shown the tape, Marks said.
Ridge was able to watch a launch of a Shadow, another tactical UAV the Army has, and saw a display of the different capabilities including smaller unmanned aerial vehicles the Army may have in the future, the general said.
Ridge praised the soldiers on the post, which Marks said was good to hear "from an (enlisted) infantryman who served in Vietnam."
U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were with Ridge during his tour on post and flight along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Kolbe, McCain and other members of the Arizona congressional delegation have been pushing for a U.S. Border Patrol UAV program, suggesting it should operate out of Fort Huachuca which has existing training facilities and runways.
Ridge said he sees how his department and the Department of Defense can work together to get more value out of the UAVs. He said he has always been interested in unmanned aircraft. When he became the secretary for homeland security, he wanted to look at the pilotless planes even more to see what kind of application they can have to secure the nation's borders.
The Border Patrol, like the military, has a mission to protect the nation. Ridge said his department can learn faster by using existing technology.
Kolbe, who along with McCain had dinner with Ridge at the Copper Queen Hotel, said that while Ridge's trip to Arizona was quick, it gave him a look at the problems facing officials and residents who live along the border with Mexico.
Ridge said his helicopter tour was an eye-opener. He only got to see a quarter of the 270 miles of border that Arizona shares with Mexico. He said he was taken back by the destruction being caused by illegal activities.
Even during the flight as dusk began to fall and from briefings he received, Ridge said the environment is being destroyed by the litter being left by illegal immigrants.
It appears there may be more apprehensions of illegal immigrants this year because of additional agents and technology such as sensors being used, he said.
Ridge said he knows Cochise County is the major hot spot for illegal immigration activities and part of the problem why the county area and other parts of the border in Arizona are the traffic areas is because other federal agencies have restrictions on what the U.S. Border Patrol people can do on land they control, Ridge said.
That has to stop and he plans to set up a task force of the four or five federal agencies that have land along the border to work together so U.S. Border Patrol agents can have better access to public lands to do their job.
"The coyotes have sophisticated intelligence and they know where our guys and gals can go and where they can't," Ridge said. "That is a big green light (for those involved in illegal activities)."
Another issue that has to be addressed in more detail is the financial loss suffered by border medical facilities, Ridge said. There are many border problems, and the Department of Homeland Security is looking at how to address the problems.
He said he wanted to apologize to local officials and residents that he did not have the time to meet with them on this trip. This is his first trip to Arizona in is current position, and the first time has seen a major rural portion of the border with Mexico, although he has seen border problems in San Diego, Calif., and El Paso, Texas.
On Wednesday, Kolbe said he also wished Ridge had some time to meet with local officials and resident of Cochise County.
Ridge said he intends to return to Arizona and hopefully arrange meetings to hear from local people about their border concerns. He does get information from his people serving in the field and members of Arizona's congressional delegation, but Ridge said it will be good to hear local views in person.
I'm not going to hold my breath re:post#3, I'm very much afraid this is window-dressing. If they were serious, all UAV flights, training and otherwise, would be carried out in support of the Border Patrol starting yesterday. Ridge says the Army 'may' be supporting BP with UAVs next year. Too late, when the BP is apprehending 200 illegals per day in the Naco Corridor.
The Border Patrol is replete with examples in which earnest-sounding higher-ups actually thwart the everyday efforts of their well-intentioned, hard-working charges; libs want illegals for their votes, republicrats want them for cheap wages for companies.
The intel will be used merely to the extent that it will assure that rag-heads are prevented from crossing, while torrents of run of the mill illegals will have their own carpeted passing lane straight to El Norte.
Protect foreign interests? Gladly.
Protect the Joe Six-Pack? FORGET IT!
Are they going to fire missiles at them? Thats pretty much what curbed the flow at one time, when some private citizen groups were said to go and patrol the borders with guns.
Now, I really think that's good news, though I doubt they will come through on this. I think it's sad, though, that this should have rumour status; it should been done decades ago. City patrols are being whispered about like it's innovative, or something.
I mean, there are huge neighborhoods that you can drive through in Southern California where folks simply do not speak english, and in those rare instances in which they can, well, many are outspoken about how they're "re-conquistadors", "this is Atzlan" [sic], etc.
Recent arrivals are most often hard-working, and I think that's good. But in their kids, these good habits are diminish and there's a detectable sense of entitlement sets in; "Where is MINE?"
You said it! Ridge had to get his ass back to DC and ask Bush, what in the hell is he going to do before the Americans who care decide to start solving these problems without official guidance.
"Naw, Sammy, forget them shovels, we need a bulldozer today. Did you get those five cases of ammo, like I asked you to?"
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