WASHINGTON, D.C. - During a Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) fought for additional resources for counter drug efforts along the Southwest Border to address the heroin and opiate epidemic in the United States. The hearing was to consider the nomination of Lieutenant General Joseph L. Lengyel to be General and Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich underscored that while New Mexico shares a 179-mile border with Mexico, the state is only provided with enough funding for five National Guard personnel to prevent drug trafficking "due to a failed resourcing model," said Sen. Heinrich. 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 Lt. Gen. Lengyel to revamp the existing resource model so that the United States can stop drugs before they enter the country. In 2013, more than 8,000 people died in the United States because of heroin overdose and New Mexico had the second highest rate of overdose deaths in the country. In that same year, an estimated 26 pure metric tons of heroin were produced in Mexico with most of it coming into the United States across the Southwest Border.
Later in the hearing, Senator Heinrich 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. Senator Heinrich secured a commitment from Lt. Gen. Lengyel, that if confirmed, he would support the Air Force's consideration of procuring additional CV-22's for attrition reserve to supplement Air Force Special Operations Command's (AFSOC) current fleet.
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.