Officials from U.S. Northern Command have launched an investigation “into a wide range of alleged issues” among National Guard units deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border under federal control, a NORTHCOM spokesperson told Army Times.
The NORTHCOM inquiry comes a month after Army Times’ investigation of Task Force Phoenix, a brigade-sized cohort of 34 distinct Guard units under the Pentagon’s control that was responsible for assisting Customs and Border Protection with securing the border from October 2020 through October 2021. The federally-controlled mission is distinct from Operation Lone Star, a massive mission to the Texas-Mexico border directed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Three soldiers died during the year-long mission under Task Force Phoenix. The task force also suffered from endemic misconduct, staffing and logistics issues, Army Times found after interviewing seven Guard troops involved in the mission and analyzing hundreds of pages of documents and audio tapes.
The documents also raised questions about the efficiency of the lookout posts that most of the troops spent their working days manning. Federally controlled Guard troops assisted with less than 15% of the Border Patrol’s apprehensions in fiscal 2021 — less than 250,000 of 1.66 million.
In a Wednesday evening email to Army Times, a NORTHCOM spokesperson did not address whether the investigation was in direct response to the December news report.
Two members of Congress raised concerns about the mission to Army Times last year, as well.
“If we want to secure the border, 100 customs officers is better than 100 National Guardsmen,” argued Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., a Marine veteran who is on the House Armed Services Committee. “All you’re doing is, basically, taking [Guardsmen] away from their families [and] taking people from actual training.”
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., agreed that Congress would step in to “ensure the folks on the front lines of this crisis have the equipment, resources, and support … that they need to properly secure our southern border” if necessary.
It’s not clear what action Congress might take at the end of the NORTHCOM investigation.
The Army Regulation 15-6 investigation is directed by a general officer, the NORTHCOM spokesperson said, and “the investigation team is composed of senior members” from all three components of the Army.
“The independent investigation team will take the time required to thoroughly answer the Commander’s inquiry, identify concerns, and report findings, as directed,” the spokesperson said, adding that they were “unable to provide any additional details at this time.”
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.