WASHINGTON- Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following opening remarks on the Committee's hearing titled "Department of Defense's Support to the Southern Border":
“Let me join in welcoming our witnesses. Thank you all for being here today. In my view, it is perfectly appropriate for our committee to examine the mission and the activities of our military on the Southern border. And I think that the questions the Chairman asked at the beginning of his statement; what are we doing down there, how much does it cost, what affect does it have on readiness and so forth are perfectly legitimate questions.
“I do have concerns that the broader issues related to the immigration debate that are not the purview of this committee may be brought into this room even though we have no jurisdiction and even though it threatens, at least, to begin us this year on a more partisan contentious note than we otherwise might. I hope that does not happen.
“When it comes to DOD, I note that the briefing material prepared for us by the staff say that the previous five administrations have authorized the use of armed forces operating under Title X authorities in support of border security. And as a matter of fact, we tried to look at the various functions going back to at least the early 1990's that include things like surveillance and logistics and command and control and aviation support and a whole variety of things. I noticed that in 1997 under President Clinton the military was used for construction to build and improve physical barriers. I noted in 2012 under President Obama, the military was used for construction to install sensor equipment and so forth. So, I guess my take away trying to put this a little in context is number one, what the administration has done is in line with consistent with, the sorts of things that we have asked the military to do for a long, long time.
“My second take away is that under administrations of both parties and congresses of both parties we obviously aren't providing for adequately resources for border security. Because we keep having to use the military to back up the Border Patrol, when it ought to be their job to do it.
“Now again, some of that -- that takes us to areas outside of that committee - how much we do on border security- but clearly it has implications for us. And I hope that as we not only look at what we are doing today but put today's mission in context going back what 30 years or more, that it at least informs decisions that are made outside of this room.
“Thank you all again for being here. We look forward to your testimony and I yield back.”