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National Guard – Airborne Security

Resources are stretched. Allocation of those limited resources continues to be a subject of discussion. Today, according to an article in Government Security News it is being reported that the National Guard’s aerial surveillance activities in support of federal, state and local law enforcement counter-drug efforts may be outsourced to private contractors.

The Domestic Operations Directorate of the National Guard of the National Guard has requested private aviation companies to provide information about how they might instead provide aircraft, pilots and crew for 4,000 to 6,000 flight hours per year, for a period of three to five years.

According to Lt. Col. Mike Shiels, chief of counterdrug aviation for the National Guard, “about half” of the 11 fixed wing aircraft used by the National Guard’s aerial surveillance efforts have been redeployed for use in the War on Terrorism. Shiels did not speculate on the effect of this redeployment on the Guard’s domestic counter-drug campaign. However, to provide the necessary support, the Guard is now considering outsourcing the program to a private contractor, but must overcome two obstacles; they must identify a commercial contractor with the aircraft equipped with surveillance equipment and crews to accomplish the Guard’s airborne mission; and the leadership of the National Guard needs to be willing to “outsource” the surveillance mission to a commercial contractor.

The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act generally precludes uniformed personnel from performing domestic law enforcement duties. However, Shiels believes that the Guard’s efforts fall under the narrow limitations under which the Guard operates in the area of domestic surveillance. Clearly, airborne surveillance is more costly than most local law enforcement agencies can afford. Also pretty apparent is that the Guard’s aerial resources have been redeployed to the war front. The challenge is to balance our border and domestic security needs with those of the multiple fronts in the War on Terror.