This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"We're Sending Federal Agents to the Border"

The Dallas Morning News, along with a number of other major newspapers in the US, has given decent coverage to Clinton's visit to Mexico. But in many cases, this coverage is only skin deep.

I was reading this story just a few minutes ago, and the below paragraph jumped out at me:

The White House said Tuesday that it was sending hundreds of additional federal agents to the U.S.-Mexican border to help border states deal with the spillover effects of the violence and to stop the flow of guns and money from the U.S. to Mexico.

I was recently in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, and spent a lot of time talking to Federal agents, off the record.

They did mention that Washington was planning on sending more federal agents, but when I asked if these agents would be rotated out from other posts, they told me that it was not likely.

The story I heard was that when the White House makes these announcements, it's for public consumption, not to bolster the faltering morale of the federal agents working on the border under stressful conditions.

The truth is, when Congress loosens the purse for more federal agents, the time between the moment when the funding comes down and when the new agent becomes an effective force on the ground can be as much as 18 months, maybe more.

New recruits need to be trained. Depending on the agency - ICE, ATF, DEA, etc - the academy training takes at least six months, likely more.

There is a background check process.

Then, the greenhorn, or FNG (F#$king New Guy), has to be paired up with a veteran. And as some of the veterans told me, this pairing doesn't mean you have double the effectiveness. If anything, two men - a vet and a rookie - add up to less than one agent as the rookie's steep learning curve in the field forces the veteran to slow down.

So when the White House tells us that more federal agents will be sent to the border, take that as good news, but keep in mind that will be around a year and a half before this new group adds value.

I applaud the effort, but it is one that should have been made years ago.

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