WASHINGTON, D.C. (Officer of Henry Cuellar) – Thursday, Congressman Henry Cuellar voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual budget for the Department of Defense, which passed the House and now heads to the Senate for consideration. Rep. Cuellar successfully included language in the NDAA that reiterates and enhances support for United States-Mexico cooperation in the ongoing fight to combat the illegal drug trade.
“The safety and security of the United States cannot be viewed in a vacuum,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Cooperation between the United States and Mexico can lead to a reduction in the flow of drugs to the United States, which threatens children and families, taxes our criminal justice system, and costs billions in law enforcement resources. That is why I fought to include this language which boosts cooperation between our two nations in this vital effort. More can be done and more must be done to work with our southern neighbor and secure our border.”
Over the past decade, a `balloon effect' has pushed increased violence and instability into Central America and Mexico from South America. Currently, Mexico is working to reduce violence created by transnational criminal organizations and address issues spurred by the emergence of internal self defense groups. To combat these destabilizing threats, through a variety of authorities, the U.S. Department of Defense advises, trains, educates, and equips vetted troops in Mexico and many of the nations of Central America to build their militaries and police forces, with an emphasis on human rights and building partnership capacity.
Rep. Cuellar’s language directs the Department of Defense to focus on combating illicit networking routes in Mexico and Central America. According to Rep. Cuellar’s language, the United States Northern Command and United States Southern Command should continue to work together to combat the transnational nature of these threats and the U.S. Department of Defense should increase its maritime, aerial and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets in the region in order to reduce the amount of illicit networking flowing into the United States.
Rep. Cuellar is also continuing to monitor the progress of language he included in last year’s NDAA, which directed the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop joint testing and training of unmanned aircraft and systems for use in border security operations.
This provision will better train and equip pilots to operate unmanned aircraft for the purposes of border security. It will more effectively utilize taxpayer dollars to support the activities of Customs and Border Protection so that agents are better trained and equipped. The ability of these three agencies, DoD, DHS, and FAA, to work jointly will allow for better sharing of knowledge and expertise which will ultimately benefit the residents of the border regions and citizens throughout the country.