Gov. Jan Brewer wants President Barack Obama to move some National Guard helicopters from other states to Arizona to help secure the border.
In a letter to the president, released Friday, Brewer said the state has only four OH-58 Kiowa helicopters available for border missions.
“These helicopters are extremely valuable assets in supporting law enforcement efforts on the ground,” Brewer wrote to Obama. “The number available, though, is inadequate to provide the kind of support needed on the Arizona border.”
So Brewer had her staff search out where other of these helicopters are located. And she came to the conclusion that at least some of these should be moved to Arizona as well as other border states.
“As a governor, I understand the desire to hold on to personnel, equipment and funding,” she wrote.
“On the other hand, I believe I must be objective when national priorities are under consideration,” Brewer continued. “In the case of Arizona, despite my obvious bias, I believe that there are legitimate national interests in my request to beef up aviation assets to supplement current Custom and Border Protection capabilities.”
Gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman acknowledged that Brewer has not talked to governors in other states — those that would be sending equipment and troops to Arizona under a presidential order if Obama accepts her plan — about such a move. Instead, he said Brewer has had discussions with counterparts “in general about improving Arizona’s border security.”
Anyway, Senseman minimized the need for Brewer to get the blessings of other governors.
“We’re not talking about losses in every state in the union,” Senseman said. “We’re talking about the transfer of some aviation assets that are used in some training in other facilities that could be used in training and operations along the Arizona border.”
And he said the bottom line is that the consent of the other governor’s is unnecessary. He said Obama has the power to deploy each state’s Guard unit and its equipment as he believes is necessary, the same way they have been sent to the Middle East.
More than helicopters, pilots and support staff are at issue.
Brewer also wants Obama to move some unmanned aerial vehicles into border areas. Brewer acknowledged these UAVs are now being used in Afghanistan and Iraq but said they should be redeployed here once they are no longer needed overseas.
“It seems UAV operations would be ideal for border security and counter-drug missions,” the governor wrote.
Senseman defended the request to move equipment and personnel from other states. He said Obama, in his criticism of Arizona’s new law aimed at illegal immigration, has conceded the federal government needs to do more to secure the international border.
“This proposal will be an excellent way, and a tangible way, for that security to be improved,” Senseman said.
He said none of this is designed to undermine legitimate needs elsewhere in the country.
“However, he has not supported the state of Arizona and its citizens in our efforts over many years to improve border security,” Senseman said. “That’s something that Arizonans and Americans alike believe should be improved.”
And Senseman said if the president believes there are problems with this specific proposal to move helicopters and UAVs, he is free to alter it or ask for another one.
One alternative Brewer pointed out is that Arizona actually has nine more Kiowa helicopters. But there are earmarked for national training activities.
She said Obama might consider, in the short term, using some of these helicopters for border efforts.