Security experts question border mission for military
By ROBERT BURNS and LOLITA C. BALDOR
Friday, November 2
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has left no doubt that his top priority as leader of the military is making it more “lethal” — better at war and more prepared for it — and yet nothing about the military’s new mission at the U.S.-Mexico border advances that goal. Some argue it detracts from it.
The troops going to the border areas of Texas, Arizona and California are a small fraction of the military’s roughly 1.3 million active-duty members, and the mission is set to last only 45 days. But many question the wisdom of drawing even several thousand away from training for their key purpose: to win wars.
James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral and former head of the U.S. Southern Command, said the troops should be preparing for combat and other missions, “not monitoring a peaceful border” for the arrival of a migrant caravan of several thousand people on foot, still about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) away.
“It sends a terrible signal to Latin America and the Caribbean as we unnecessarily militarize our border,” Stavridis, who also served as the top NATO commander, said Thursday. “It places U.S. troops who are fundamentally untrained for the mission of border security and border enforcement into an area of operations, which could cause incidents of a negative character. If we need more border patrol agents, hire them.”
The first 100 or so active duty troops arrived at the border on Thursday, making initial assessment at the McAllen, Texas, crossing. Overall, there are about 2,600 troops at staging bases in the region.
David Lapan, a retired Marine colonel who is a former spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Department of Homeland Security, said that taking troops away from training and from their families to play a supporting role in border security is unwise.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Lapan, now a vice president of communications at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “This caravan, this group of poor people, including a lot of women and children, doesn’t pose a threat — not a national security threat.”
In line with the Pentagon’s national security strategy, Mattis has been focused on improving the combat readiness of a military worn down by the recent years of congressionally imposed budget cuts and the grind of 17 years of war in Afghanistan. This includes reorienting training from that required for the smaller wars the U.S. has fought since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to a “great power” struggle with Russia and China.
That context may explain why the Pentagon itself seemed caught off-guard by President Donald Trump’s abrupt order to dispatch active-duty troops; the Customs and Border Protection, which requested Pentagon help, has struggled to define details of the mission and explain its scope.
“That this is a security threat is preposterous and not supported by the evidence,” said Derek Chollet, former senior policy adviser at the Pentagon. “If you’re sitting in the Pentagon and worried about implementation of the national defense strategy and worried about the threats from China and Russia, this is not at the top of your list.”
“This is another version of the parade,” Chollet said, referring to Trump’s demand earlier this year — eventually withdrawn — that the military spend millions to stage a parade in Washington D.C. “This is not a good use of U.S. military resources at this moment. Trump was frustrated in his effort to build a physical wall on the border, now he’s trying to build a human wall by using the U.S. military.”
Mattis has rejected assertions that the military is being leveraged by the White House as a political stunt in advance of the midterm elections. “We don’t do stunts,” he said Wednesday, but neither has he argued that sending thousands of active-duty soldiers to help secure the border is his preference.
Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, who as head of U.S. Northern Command is commanding the military operation, dubbed “Operation Faithful Patriot,” has argued that the caravan is a potential threat, although he has not fully defined that.
“I think what we have seen is we’ve seen clearly an organization at a higher level than we’ve seen before,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We’ve seen violence coming out of the caravan and we’ve seen as they’ve passed other international borders, we’ve seen them behave in a nature that has not been what we’ve seen in the past.”
One concern raised by other defense officials is that the caravans are largely male-dominated, and that one of them used violence when crossing the border into Mexico. But Associated Press journalists traveling with the largest group say it includes many families, including hundreds of children, and it has been orderly and peaceful, with no sign of any danger.
The military says it is deploying 7,000 troops to Texas, Arizona and California, and while it has left open the possibility that the number could grow by another thousand under current plans, the scope of the mission has grown in recent days. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he would send as many as 15,000 troops.
Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a letter to Trump on Thursday that his administration has given the committee no evidence that migrant caravans pose a direct security threat to the U.S.
“This is not a military problem; it does not warrant a military solution,” Reed wrote. He said the administration should disclose the cost of the military’s border mission “and what impacts it will have on military readiness and the overall budget.”
With his eyes squarely on Tuesday’s election contests, Trump has rushed a series of immigration declarations, promises and actions as he tries to mobilize supporters to retain Republican control of Congress. His own campaign in 2016 concentrated on border fears, and that’s his focus in the final days of the midterm fight.
Trump has railed against illegal immigration, focusing on the migrant caravans that have been going on for several years but received little attention until now. The largest at the moment consists of about 4,000, down from a high of about 7,000, and is still in southern Mexico. Several smaller groups, estimated at a combined 1,200 people, are farther away.
This story has been corrected to show that the agency name in 9th paragraph is Customs and Border Protection, not Border Patrol.
Campaign spending isn’t the problem – where the money comes from is
November 2, 2018
Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation, Columbia University
Richard Briffault does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The tide of campaign money seems to be running high and threatening to swamp our democracy.
For the first time, the cost of congressional elections is likely to surpass US $5 billion.
Certainly, $5 billion sounds like a lot to spend on a midterm election. But consider the stakes – our $4.4 trillion federal budget, our $20 trillion gross domestic product and a host of national policies, from immigration to health care to trade to the environment, may all be affected by the election’s outcome.
And although $5 billion is a record amount, the five top advertisers in the U.S. – Comcast, Procter & Gamble, AT&T, Amazon and GM – together spent $20 billion on advertising last year – or four times the money spent on campaign communications.
I’m a scholar who studies, among other subjects, campaign finance regulation. This surge in campaign spending is striking, but I believe the volume of campaign spending is not the main problem with our campaign finance system.
The real challenge for our democracy is where so much of this money comes from.
The one-thousandth of 1 percent
Our federal election campaigns are entirely funded by private money. The minimal public funding program for presidential elections established in 1974 has collapsed; no major candidate took public funds in either of the last two presidential elections. A public funding program for congressional races never existed.
And the private dollars that drive the system come from a tiny fraction of our society.
Federal law requires the reporting of the identities of only those donors who give at least $200.
Barely one-half of 1 percent of the adult population has given $200 or more in connection with this year’s federal elections. Yet collectively they have accounted for more than 66 percent of campaign funds, or more than $3.4 billion.
More strikingly, a little more than 37,000 people – or about one-thousandth of one percent of the adult population – have so far given $10,000 or more each, aggregating to nearly $1.9 billion, or 38 percent of the total.
In discussions about inequality in the United States, there is a lot of talk about the 1 percent, but in campaign finance it is the 0.0001 percent who matter. And it is the less than one-thousandth of 1 percent – the 2,210 people, who so far have collectively given $1.1 billion, or nearly one-quarter of the total – who matter even more.
These numbers reflect only publicly disclosed contributions. With the rise of “dark money groups” that spend to influence election outcomes but – because they claim to be primarily non-electoral – do not have to disclose their donors, the fraction of campaign money provided by elite donors is probably even larger.
Nor is the donor class representative of the broader community whose interests are all at stake in an election.
Donors are older, whiter and wealthier than America as a whole. They hail disproportionately from certain places: So far this year, more money has come from the District of Columbia than from 28 states put together. And certain industries – finance, real estate, law, health care, oil and gas – are particularly big givers.
According to media reports – there is no formal tracking of these donors – this year has witnessed a striking increase in the number and importance of small donors. But big donors continue to be pivotal to the campaign finance system. And the financing role of a small number of very wealthy individuals inevitably distorts our political process.
Impact on democracy
As the saying goes, he who pays the piper calls the tune. With campaign donors and recipients, this is less a matter of classical quid pro quo corruption – the exchange of campaign dollars for votes – than it is the dependence of so many of our elected officials on these megadonations.
Elected officials are often reluctant to take positions that are at odds with the interests of their large donors, and what gets on – or stays off – the legislative agenda can be driven by donor concerns.
This tends to be more significant for issues that get little media attention – who gets a specific tax break or regulatory relief – than for hot-button concerns. But it inevitably shapes who benefits from government action, who is harmed and who is ignored.
As the Supreme Court explained in sustaining the McCain-Feingold Act’s ban on soft money, “The evidence connects soft money to manipulations of the legislative calendar, leading to Congress’s failure to enact, among other things, generic drug legislation, tort reform and tobacco legislation.”
Federal budget director and former Congressman Mick Mulvaney put the matter with disarming candor: “We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”
The campaign finance system certainly has implications for the health of our democracy. But for those concerned with democratic representation, I believe their focus ought to be on the sources of campaign money – and on finding ways to bring in more small donations and no-strings-attached contributions – than on the spending itself.
stephan Edwards: Except the politicians are not particularly interested in any limitations on contributions for their side the other side sure. But in the end the small number of people who call the tune aren’t interested in changing the system and if they aren’t neither are the politicians. Thus any changes are more likely to cosmetic then real I’m afraid. As for no strings contributions there isn’t any such thing except at a very small way. No one contributes at the level politicians actually care about unless they expect the politician’s attention and in many cases obedience.
November 2, 2018
Attorney General DeWine Extends Deadline for School Safety Training Grants
Approximately $2.8 Million in School Safety Training Grant Funding Unclaimed
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced today that he is extending the deadline for eligible Ohio schools to claim their share of millions of dollars in school safety training grants.
Attorney General DeWine announced in September that all of Ohio’s public schools, chartered nonpublic schools, and schools operated by county boards of developmental disabilities were eligible to receive a portion of $12 million in grants to pay for school safety programs and training.
More than 1,700 Ohio schools and school districts qualified for grants totaling between $2,500 and $283,000, depending on school enrollment. As of yesterday’s original grant application deadline, only 63 percent of eligible schools had claimed their funds, and approximately $2.8 million in grant funding was left unclaimed.
In an effort to encourage more school districts to collect their grant allotments, Attorney General DeWine is now extending the application deadline to Friday, November 30, 2018.
“As Ohio’s attorney general, it has always been my mission to support schools in their efforts to protect Ohio’s children,” said Attorney General DeWine. “I’m extending this deadline because every eligible school is entitled to thousands of dollars to help ensure the safety of its students. I encourage school administrators who have not yet sent in their funding applications to do so right away.”
A list of eligible schools that did not submit applications by yesterday’s initial deadline can be found here.
Attorney General DeWine sent a letter to administrators for every eligible school and school district in September with instructions on how to claim the grant funds. Administrators with questions should email SchoolSafetyGrants@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or call 614-466-6963.
Schools have the flexibility to use the grant money for school resource officer training, safety and security materials, programs to identify and help students struggling with mental health, and more.
The grants are funded with appropriations made by the Ohio legislature as part of House Bill 318. The bill, which was sponsored by state representatives Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson), appointed the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to develop the school safety training grant program in consultation with the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
The law requires that participating schools and county boards work with law enforcement in their jurisdictions to determine the best use of the grant funding.
Since taking office in 2011, Attorney General DeWine has taken several measures to enhance school safety across the state. In addition to training thousands of educators, Attorney General DeWine’s Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy has trained more than 14,000 law enforcement officers on preparing for and responding to active shooter threats.
Attorney General DeWine’s Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy also recently produced “Active Shooter Response: An Educator’s Guide” to aid educators in preparing for and reacting to a potentially violent school incident, such as a school shooting. Special agents with the Attorney General’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) are also now available to take free aerial photographs of school buildings for inclusion in school emergency management plans.
Attorney General DeWine also worked with schools across the state to achieve greater compliance on school safety plans and convened a School Safety Task Force that issued dozens of school safety recommendations. The task force recognized that mental health awareness was essential for schools to identify and intervene with students who may be at risk.