Heinrich Meets With New Mexico National Guard, Discusses Increased Resources For Counterdrug Efforts Along U.S.-Mexico Border

Senator Heinrich and Brigadier General Salas Continue Efforts to Strengthen Tacos Mission

SANTA FE, N.M. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, met with New Mexico National Guard officials in Santa Fe, N.M., to discuss increasing resources for counterdrug efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border and build upon efforts to enable the New Mexico National Guard to become the first Air National Guard unit in the country to fly and train in the CV-22 Osprey.

"The New Mexico National Guard plays a vital role in keeping our nation safe at home and abroad. With New Mexico sharing a 179-mile border with Mexico, it's critical we provide our Guardsmen with more personnel and resources to stop drugs from ever entering our country," said Sen. Heinrich. "The Tacos also have a very successful mission training with the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland and are uniquely capable of  helping with emergency response when disasters strike. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will continue to work to strengthen our National Guard and ensure our state maintains its role in keeping our nation safe and secure."

Senator Heinrich is a cosponsor of S. 2877, a bill that would provide funding for the National Guard Counterdrug Program to mitigate gaps or delays in drug interdiction and counterdrug activities. Currently the New Mexico National Guard does not receive funding until late in the year and faces unstable and unpredictable funding levels. 

Last month during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Senator Heinrich underscored that the National Guard is only provided enough funding for five personnel members to prevent drug trafficking due to a failed resourcing model. The existing model used by the Department of Defense allocates funds nationally based on a number of metrics rather than prioritizing where drugs actually enter the country.  Senator Heinrich urged that the Pentagon revise the model in order to prioritize funding toward the border where it will have the most impact. 

Senator Heinrich has also advocated for CV-22 Osprey and the benefits they would bring to the National Guard for emergency responses, including its role in natural disaster relief. The CV-22 Osprey provides our nation a unique capability to fulfill long-range search and rescue missions but has suffered losses over time due to attrition and increased operational tempo. The unique ability of the CV-22 to blend the vertical flight capabilities of a helicopter with the speed, range, altitude, and endurance of a fixed-wing turbo-prop airplane has made it a valuable asset to Air Force Special Operations Command.

Recently, Senator Heinrich sent a letter to the Air Force urging the procurement of additional CV-22's for attrition reserve to supplement Air Force Special Operations Command's (AFSOC) current fleet. And in December, Senator Heinrich worked to include a provision in the omnibus appropriations bill--which was signed into law--to procure an additional CV-22 Osprey for Air Force attrition reserve. The New Mexico Air National Guard trains mission-ready Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue crews on CV-22s together with the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Senator Heinrich voted in favor of an amendment to the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would boost funding for defense to allow an increase of 7,000 National Guard personnel and additional aircraft procurement for the National Guard.