Jurisdictional in-fighting has a lot to answer for.  The pursuit of bureaucratic dominance after 9/11 gave us the divorce of counter-terror from counter-crime, creating a duopoly that is massively expensive in terms of money, manpower and effectiveness.  Illegal immigration and smuggling are becoming a major focus of manpower, and runs the risk of the same bureaucratic wrangling that sacrifices effect and efficiency in the name of departmental primacy.

Let me be clear – it’s of less importance which department protects the border – what matters is that the border is effectively protected

This isn’t a question of the military versus law enforcement in terms of managing the border – this is about the fundamental principles of how the US Government addresses and solves problems.

I certainly understand Wendell Shingler’s argument that policing the border is a law enforcement responsibility, and don’t disagree with that fact.  However, the question should be whether law enforcement, under their current manpower, structure and budget, are able to fulfill the role.  If they cannot, then they have to be given support until they are able to build sufficient internal capacity to manage on their own.

This blog focuses on the discussion of capabilities – a capability is the integration of doctrine, policy, training, personnel, equipment, equipment support, logistics, media operations, political effort, intelligence operations and any other considerations required to “close a capability gap.”  In other words, all the pieces of the puzzle needed to solve a problem.

The perceived requirement to decide between a military or law enforcement solution is a completely false one, and must be examined at length.  Posse Commitatus, like so many laws, had its time and its place.  However, here it complicates the situation without adding operational or political value, and this debate is going to recur as the discussion develops about the military brigade tasked with domestic operations in support of disaster relief or other tasks.

Anywhere else in the world there would not be an argument about whether the military or the police should take responsibility for this type of problem.  Instead, the military would be tasked to support law enforcement as part of their responsibility to support the civil authorities in achieving a task of national security.  The military would allocate the specialist capabilities that are far more appropriate to the role than law enforcement currently has in order to allow law enforcement to achieve their mission.  If the problem is seen to be a long-term, and if military capability is under pressure and must be released as soon as possible, a capability development program to assess the problem and then allocate integrated training programs and equipment procurement strategies should be put in place to provide the necessary capabilities for the law enforcement community.

The bottom line is that we should always be thinking of what effect we wish to achieve, and the best manner to achieve that effect given the resources to hand.  Where there is Department lead, as there always should be, the question should be about how to best manage that problem in the immediate, short, medium and long term in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

The Department of Homeland Security should step up, identify what they want to achieve, where they think they have issues and sit down with the military for a no-holds barred “here’s the problem, how can you help us fix it until we’re fully capable ourselves” session.

Government co-operation, not competition, is critical in serving the citizens.  Without cooperation, the eventual resolution of this issue will resemble the bureaucratic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.