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The Texas Military Department has cut the number of troops dedicated to Operation Lone Star, Governor Greg Abbott’s border security mission, as questions remain about its future funding.
The Dallas Morning News first reported that the state had reduced the number of National Guard soldiers dedicated to the vast mission of border security. Texas Military Department officials did not give a specific number for the current level of deployment, but said there were “over 5,000 military personnel” dedicated to Operation Lone Star.
Last November, Abbott said he had deployed a total of 10,000 troops to protect the border as part of the mission. But the largest number of troops ever assigned to the frontier was around 6,500, with thousands more supporting the mission from elsewhere, including from department headquarters in Austin.
The number of mission troops has since declined. In April, the head of the Texas military department, Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, told lawmakers that 6,128 military personnel were deployed in Operation Lone Star. At another meeting in July, he said the number had fallen to 5,751 after the department was able to find efficiencies by contracting out the construction of border fences, closing a base camp and sending home about 700 logistics-focused service members.
The mission is unprecedented in size and scale for a state deployment whose members are typically sent to help with short missions like natural disaster assistance. He was plagued early on by complaints of low morale, poor living conditions, and lack of purpose.
In a statement on Wednesday, the military department’s public affairs staff again highlighted increased efficiency — one of Suelzer’s main goals after taking over the department in March — which has allowed them to fire military personnel. at their home.
“The Texas Military Department has more than 5,000 military personnel supporting Operation Lone Star,” the statement said. “Through effective and efficient operations, including expanded maritime operations, roving patrols, increased fencing construction and the implementation of an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program, we have expanded our capabilities while allowing some service members to return home.”
The statement also noted that “staff numbers fluctuate based on mission needs and routine rotations.”
Abbott began the mission in March 2021 after migrant encounters on the state’s southern border began to spike when President Joe Biden took office and promised to reverse some of the government’s tougher immigration policies. his predecessor.
Abbott began ramping up the deployment of Operation Lone Star last September, taking what began as a volunteer force of 500 troops in March and increasing it to 2,500 that month. The following month, military leaders increased the force to 5,000, then to 6,500 in November.
It was unclear if the state would try to sustain this level of deployment for another year, especially since the cost of the mission had risen so much that state officials had to transfer nearly $1 billion. dollars just to keep it afloat this year. The most recent transfer of $495.3 million was made in April and covered the military deployment until the end of August.
But it’s unclear how the state is paying for the department’s continued deployment.
Abbott’s office did not respond to specific questions about the troop reduction and called the change a “rotation.”
“As President Biden continues to fail to do his job, Texas law enforcement has rotated those assigned to the Border Mission to keep our states’ response fresh and effective so the men and women who serve can stay focused on securing the border and protecting Texans,” his spokeswoman Renae Eze said in an email.
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