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Manpower to Guard the Border

Operation Jump Start began in mid-2006 with the intention of augmenting the manpower of the Border Patrol along the U.S.-Mexican border. Since that time, about 6,000 Guardsmen have filled non-enforcement positions to allow Border Patrol agents to engage in “front-line” activities. This “back to the border” effort resulted in the Guard assisting in the arrests of 140,000 illegal immigrants, the seizure of 143 tons of drugs (mostly marijuana), the building of 111 miles of border fencing and more than 18 miles of new all-weather roads in addition to maintaining or improving more than 570 miles of existing roads.

The effort didn’t come without a cost.

Through January, the National Guard Bureau spent more than $1 billion on the program — nearly $212 million in the 2006 fiscal year, $687 million in fiscal 2007 and $136 million during the first four months of fiscal 2008.

Operation Jump Start is now scheduled to end this summer .

While is may be an unconnected coincidence, there is now a recruiting push overseas to entice returning military veterans to sign up for the Border Patrol in an effort to reach its manpower goal of 20,000 agents by 2009. While acknowledging that the Defense Department would like to retain its seasoned soldiers but also recognizes that many will leave the service. The recruitment effort by the Border Patrol offers those soldiers an opportunity to continue serving their country in a different capacity. Border Patrol recruiters plan to visit 12 Army posts and Air Force bases.