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Senators: Border Crime Fight Lacks Cash

The Obama administration's beefed-up efforts to fight violence on the Southwest border is not the last word, the head of the Homeland Security Department told the Senate on Wednesday.

Several senators questioned whether the administration's plan can be successful without more money and people. The administration announced Tuesday that it was sending hundreds of federal agents, along with high-tech surveillance gear and drug-sniffing dogs to the Southwest border.

It was largely relying on existing funds and resources at the departments of Homeland Security and Justice for the increased effort. It also includes $700 million that Congress has already approved to support Mexico's efforts to fight the drug cartels.

The cartel turf wars have claimed more than 7,000 lives in the last 15 months, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports. That reign of terror bleeds over into Southwest U.S. border cities like Phoenix, where there were more than 400 drug-related kidnappings and home invasions last year.

"I believe this will be an ongoing issue," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

The border security initiative, which expands on efforts begun during the Bush administration, is aimed at drug traffickers who have wreaked havoc in Mexico in recent years and are blamed for a spate of kidnappings and home invasions in some U.S. cities.

"I think you're going to need more resources to get the job done," Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., told Napolitano. Lieberman said he plans to ask the Senate Budget Committee to include an additional $380 million toward this Southwest border plan in the 2010 federal budget.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., echoed Lieberman's push for more money.

"I can't think of a better use of our time and public dollars," Graham said.

Among the moves the government is making:

  • Sending about 350 additional personnel from the Homeland Security Department for a host of border-related work, including doubling the border enforcement security teams that combine local, state and federal officers.
  • Adding 16 new Drug Enforcement Administration positions in the southwestern region. DEA currently has more than 1,000 agents working in the region.
  • Sending 100 more people form the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the border in the next 45 days.
  • Boosting the FBI's intelligence and analysis work on Mexican drug cartel crime.
  • Increasing the inspection of rail cargo heading from the U.S. into Mexico and putting X-ray units in place to try to detect weapons being smuggled into Mexico.
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