Thursday, February 13, 2014

Texas' Militarized Border: How Will Drone Politics Impact the 2014 Midterm in the 23rd?

One of the biggest contests in the 2014 midterm elections is expected to occur in Texas' 23rd congressional district, which stretches East from El Paso along the border with Mexico.

A big question is who the Republicans will select in the March 4 primary to run against Democratic incumbent Pete Gallego.

Texas' "drone zone" is anchored by Fort Bliss in El Paso, an authorized basing/training site for Reaper drones and smaller-scale Shadow and Raven drones.

An interesting question is how the 23rd relates to two other anchors of Texas' "drone zone" -- both on the Gulf Coast:
* Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi has been designated by the FAA as one of six authorized test sites for drones. "Texas A&M plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing. The selection of Texas A&M contributes to geographic and climactic diversity." Will those drones be tested over the 23rd?

* Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base is being developed by the Department of Defense as a Predator Operations Complex. (See Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012))
The use of drones to militarize the border in SW Texas has been driven by Texas congressman Henry Cuellar (R-28), co-chair of the House "drones caucus." Cuellar's district, the 28th, includes San Antonio and lies just to the east of the 23rd.

The incumbent in the 23rd is Democrat Pete Gallego. Gallego clearly sees drones and the militarization of the border as an issue, and seems to be walking a tightrope: “Would I rather have drones or would I rather have a joint task force with armed Army patrols on the border?” he said. “The answer for me is that I’d rather have the drones.” (See "Border reps split on using drones for security")

The Republican field includes:
* Robert Lowry, a San Antonio physician
* Will Hurd, a former CIA officer
* Former U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco of San Antonio
Notably, Canseco is one of four Texas GOP congressmen who sponsored a bill to RESTRICT drone surveillance.

Might a general election contest between Canseco and Gallego put the issue of drone surveillance and the militarization of the border in the spotlight?

The Texas primary falls on March 4.

Related posts

The crisis du jour in the U.S. is now the "immigration border crisis": thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S. border. Although the crisis is not one of detecting these immigrants, but of discovering an ethical response to their plight, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is wasting no time demanding money for surveillance equipment.

(See "Immigration Border Crisis": The Perfect Excuse for Total Drone Surveillance )

There will be elections for 435 House seats in 2014. In at least some of those races, U.S. surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations will be an issue.

Herewith an Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms.

(See Will the 2014 Midterms be a Referendum on Obama's Surveillance, Secrecy, and Assassinations? )

Is it possible that voters in Virginia's 2nd congressional district will be forced to choose between a "centrist Democrat" -- who is also a retired Navy officer and just also happens to be a big proponent of the U.S. drone buildup -- and a "Tea Party Republican" -- who also happens to have been an opponent of the Obama administration's plan to attack Syria.

(See To Drone or Not to Drone? The Strange Choice in Virginia's 2nd District)

So here's an interesting question: the Federal Aviation Administration recently designated Griffiss International Airport near Rome, NY, as the hub of one of the first six designated drone testing locations in the country, in New York State. Griffiss is located NW of Utica, near the southern edge of New York State's 21st congressional district. But where, exactly, are they going to be flying those drones?

(See New York State's 21st Congressional District: Living Under Drones? )