Thursday, May 18, 2006

So the real Bush solution to our immigration problem is lots of pricey new equipment:

The quick fix may involve sending in the National Guard. But to really patch up the broken border, President Bush is preparing to turn to a familiar administration partner: the nation's giant military contractors.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest, are among the companies that said they would submit bids within two weeks for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build what the administration calls a "virtual fence" along the nation's land borders.

Using some of the same high-priced, high-tech tools these companies have already put to work in Iraq and Afghanistan -- like unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment -- the military contractors are zeroing in on the rivers, deserts, mountains and settled areas that separate Mexico and Canada from the United States....

The problem is, the Bushies had already agreed to buy pricey new equipment, but a Republican senator says they're now taking the money for that and spending it instead on the National Guard photo backdrop deployment:

...Delivering an unusual public critique of the administration's border-security priorities, Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., announced that $1.9 billion the Senate approved last month for equipment is being diverted to pay for the deployment of up to 6,000 National Guard troops....

Gregg ... said in a Senate floor speech that an effort to repair or replace aging equipment for the Border Patrol and Coast Guard "is essentially dead." He predicted that border agents will be hamstrung.

"A lot are going to be sitting in cars that don't run and planes that don't take off," he told reporters.

...According to an inventory provided by Gregg's office, planes used for border surveillance are more than 40 years old, more than 1,700 border patrol vehicles are not usable, and the only unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle on the Southwest border was lost in a crash last month. Also included in the $1.9 billion was funding for expanding fencing on the border and more Coast Guard patrol boats.

The money was in a $92 billion emergency funding bill now before a House-Senate conference committee. Gregg said he has no hope of finding more funding for border-security equipment. He said other Republicans on the panel told him, "Good luck getting this money."

So this was paid for. And now it's going to be un-paid for, presumably so Bush can prance around in front of people in uniform while his photo is taken in an election year. And then, I guess, it's all going to be paid for again.

(For more on this, here's Judd Gregg's Senate speech.)

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