There'll be no decrease in the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents on the Southwest border when the new fiscal year starts next week, but the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that it is trying to add agents along the border with Canada.
Homeland Security hopes to increase the number of agents on the nearly 4,000 miles of U.S.-Canada border in the coming years but will not sacrifice security along the Southwest border with Mexico to get there, said Matt Chandler, acting deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.
"Our duty is to execute the mission at both borders," Chandler said. "It's important to national security at both borders."
The number of agents on the Southwest border — 17,415 currently — will not decrease even as the agency continues to add agents to the northern border, Chandler said.
Several media outlets reported that 384 agents would be moved to the border with Canada at the beginning of fiscal year 2010, which starts Thursday. But Chandler said those reports are inaccurate and don't reflect the most current information.
Chandler said the report comes from a budgetary document that didn't take into account recent deployments to the Southwest border.
There are currently 1,881 Border Patrol agents on the northern border. Homeland Security has set a goal of having 2,212 by the end of fiscal year 2010, Chandler said.
The Border Patrol's ranks have increased exponentially in recent years, from about 12,000 agents in 2006 to about 19,000 in 2009, a Government Accountability Office report shows.
The U.S.-Canadian border is the longest undefended border in the world, according to a 2008 GAO report. Recommendations from the 9/11 Act of 2007 required that the secretary of homeland security submit a report to Congress to address the vulnerabilities along the northern border.
That report, delivered to Congress in February 2008, did not fully meet legislative requirements, the GAO report shows. While the report identified vulnerabilities and initiatives to address them, it did not include the resources needed.