How Unaccountable Private Contractors Pocket Your Tax Dollars Militarizing the Texas Border
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A Texas Model Paid for by Washington
What’s most ingenious – unabashedly devious, really – about the Texas model of border security is its purported made-in-Texas identity.
Any review beyond the bluster of Perry’s campaign ads and regular pronouncements about Border Star and the Texas model will reveal it be largely a big government dependency with respect to its funding. What is more, the innovations claimed by its leading voice, Steven McCraw, are mostly replicates of the fusion centers, multiagency task forces, unified commands, joint federal-local patrolling, operational surges, and outsourcing contracts that clog the border security bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security.
Border Star, like the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition, has been built on a foundation of federal funding.
Starting in 2006 Governor Perry began channeling DOJ criminal justice grants received by his office to the border security operations of the Texas border sheriffs, including new multiagency drug task forces, highway checkpoints, and operations targeting illegal border crossers. Although highly critical of the stimulus bill, Governor Perry quietly channeled $39.5 million in stimulus funding from DOJ to Border Star.
Since 2004 the Office of the Governor in Austin has also counted on annual injections from the Department of Homeland Security that have underwritten the establishment of the governor’s Homeland Security Office and its own granting program. In addition to the annual homeland security grants, DHS since 2006 has annually granted border security-specific grants to the government’s office, which have been redistributed to the TBSC and its members for their Operation Linebacker and Operation Border Star activities.
It was not until the 2008 state budgeting process that TBSC, Operation Linebacker, and Operation Border Star began receiving smaller proportions of state-generated funds for the Texas model of border security.
The dependency on federal government funding is especially deep in the Office of the Governor, where only 20-25 percent of the governor’s funding for criminal justice programs (which since 2006 have been increasingly directed to Border Star and related projects, such as drug task forces) comes from Texas-generated revenues while the rest comes from Washington.
At the same time he was using federal stimulus funding to cover more than $8 million in overtime payments to border deputies and $1.6 billion for border video and other surveillance (including the border sheriffs’ own Border Watch program that is dependent on “virtual deputies” that click on to the coalition’s website), Perry regarded extended unemployment benefits as example of “Texas making the right decisions” and avoiding “federal strings” that will cost Texas employers.
In matters of homeland security and border security, Governor Perry not only insists on greater federal resources he also has successfully advocated for complementary new state spending to secure the border. In an attempt to balance the new state budget (2012-13), Perry supported a $15 billion decrease in spending, including at least $5 billion in the education budget. Yet the governor easily won the support of the Republican legislature for a doubling of revenues to about $100 million annually to help finance his Texas border security model, insisting in his January “state of the state” address that Texas should continue “our investment in border security.”