Dec 20 12:54 PM US/Eastern
Agence France Presse
The United States will cut the number of national guard troops patrolling the border with Mexico as it steps up other surveillance on the porous southern border, officials said Tuesday.
The effort reflects "a new strategic approach," that includes "a number of new multi-purpose aerial assets equipped with the latest surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities," according to a statement from the departments of Homeland Security and Defense.
Homeland Security will have additional civilian personnel on the border enabling the Defense Department "to reduce the number of national guard troops at the southwest border while enhancing border security," the statement said.
President Barack Obama's administration had deployed around 1,200 troops, having been pressed by governors of border states who fear an influx of crime and a spillover of drug-related violence from Mexico.
But the statement said security would be boosted by more air surveillance, leaving fewer personnel on the ground.
The change in strategy will begin in January, with aircraft in place by March 1, the statement said.
"The air assets will reduce enforcement response time, enabling Border Patrol officers to quickly move from one location to another on short notice to meet emerging threats of illegal activity or incursion," said the statement.
In the fiscal year ended September 30, the number of border apprehensions was 340,252, down 53 percent from three years earlier and one-fifth of what they were at their peak a decade ago.