Napoli­tano un­veils grants, chal­lenges Perry’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of ex­change

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Paul J. We­ber

LAREDO — Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano said Thurs­day that she was be­ing firm, not testy, with Gov. Rick Perry re­cently when he was again ham­mer­ing the fed­eral govern­ment over se­cu­rity along the Texas border.

Napoli­tano spoke with Perry late last month as Hur­ri­cane Alex was threat­en­ing Texas be­fore mak­ing land­fall in Mex­ico. When Perry steered the call over storm readi­ness to­ward get­ting more Na­tional Guard troops, Perry said Napoli­tano be­came “a lit­tle testy.”

“He said I was testy. I thought I was firm,” Napoli­tano said, smil­ing.

The quip got laughs from an au­di­to­rium of border sher­iff’s deputies and Border Pa­trol agents at Texas A&M In­ter­na­tional Uni­ver­sity, where Napoli­tano an­nounced $60 mil­lion in grants to strengthen se­cu­rity along the South­west border. Texas will re­ceive $17 mil­lion, more than any other state, un­der the pro­gram.

The money is part of what Napoli­tano called a record amount of re­sources the border has re­ceived since Pres­i­dent Barack Obama took of­fice. Napoli­tano re­minded law en­force­ment of­fi­cials that the num­ber of Border Pa­trol troops has dou­bled since 2004, and she said il­le­gal weapons seizures along the border rose 29 per­cent in the 2009 bud­get year com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year.

Napoli­tano said she per­haps needed to pro­vide “more in­for­ma­tion” to Perry, who has been slam­ming Washington for is­sues such as border se­cu­rity, ed­u­ca­tion and fed­eral spend­ing.

“The num­bers tell the tale,” Napoli­tano said. “I would sim­ply say look at the num­bers.”

Perry has main­tained that the num­bers aren’t suf­fi­cient. A day be­fore Napoli­tano ar­rived in Texas, Perry sent a let­ter to Obama and Napoli­tano ex­press­ing his dis­ap­point­ment that Texas would be given only 250 Na­tional Guard troops.

Perry, who asked for 1,000 troops last year, called the num­ber “grossly in­suf­fi­cient” to cover the large Texas border.

“Send­ing only 20 per­cent of these much-needed as­sets to Texas is un­fair and in­ad­e­quate,” Perry wrote. “Fur­ther­more, when you take into ac­count the ramp-up and ramp-down times as­so­ci­ated with a mil­i­tary ac­tion of this kind, this de­ploy­ment would sup­port sus­tained op­er­a­tions for only an es­ti­mated four months.”

Napoli­tano phoned Perry, a Repub­li­can run­ning for an un­prece­dented third term as gover­nor, be­fore Alex made land­fall June 30 to ask whether Texas had all the help it needed.

“I said, ‘Yes, I have all the help I need, but I don’t have all the help I need along the border of Texas,’ ” Perry told re­porters the next day. “I said, ‘The idea that you would send 250 Na­tional Guard troops to a 1,200-mile border and think that is any­thing but an af­front is be­yond me.’”

Napoli­tano, who was a Demo­cratic gover­nor of Ari­zona be­fore join­ing Obama’s Cabi­net, said troop de­ploy­ments don’t tell the whole story.

“You can’t just look at the Na­tional Guard alone,” Napoli­tano said. “You have to look at the en­tire uni­verse of re­sources that are be­ing de­ployed to the border, and into Texas specif­i­cally. And those re­sources have never been greater.”

Ari­zona will get the sec­ond­biggest slice of money un­der the pro­gram for 2010, nearly $14 mil­lion. Cal­i­for­nia will re­ceive more than $12 mil­lion.

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