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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan August 11, 2010

John McCain said he would add 3,000 troops to the border while Obama would add only 524

Sen. John McCain of Arizona is up for re-election and facing a challenge in the Republican primary from J.D. Hayworth. His latest television ad ignores his primary opponent, instead going after President Barack Obama and emphasizing that McCain is committed to border security.

"The border security plan of Sens. McCain and Kyl called for 3,000 additional troops to keep us safe. President Obama says he'll send 524," the narrator says. "This is no political game, Mr. President. It's about Arizona lives. It's a fight we must win. And with John McCain on our side, we will."

We wanted to check whether it was true that McCain called for 3,000 troops while Obama said he would send 524.

First, we checked out the plan outlined by McCain Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz.. The 10-point proposal was released in April and includes the following point:

"Immediately deploy 3,000 National Guard Troops along the Arizona/Mexico border, along with appropriate surveillance platforms, which shall remain in place until the Governor of Arizona certifies, after consulting with state, local and tribal law enforcement, that the Federal Government has achieved operational control of the border. Permanently add 3,000 Custom and Border Protection Agents to the Arizona/Mexico border by 2015."

McCain and Kyl introduced a bill to carry out the plan in May, but there has been no significant action on the proposed legislation.

But McCain did add an amendment to a pending appropriations bill that authorizes defense spending; the amendment would send 6,000 troops to the border area, double the number McCain mentioned in his ad. The bill has not yet come up for a vote in the full Senate.

Now, for Obama's plan. Obama announced in May that he was sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the southwest border to help with border security. The troops were sent to different states: 524 to Arizona, 250 to Texas, 224 to California, and 72 to New Mexico. Other troops were to serve in command and control or support positions in various states, according to the U.S. Army.

But Obama has also asked Congress to pass emergency legislation to add 1,000 new border patrol agents. That legislation is pending, and the number has been increased to 1,500 agents. It does not specify how many agents would be assigned to which states. McCain said he supports the bill and that it should be passed as quickly as possible.

So McCain supports 3,000 to 6,000 additional troops. On Obama's side, you could count the 1,200 National Guard troops he sent in May, plus 1,500 agents to be funded by legislation Obama is expected to sign upon passage. That totals 2,700, or 2,200, if you only count Obama's original request to Congress.

In his ad, McCain gives a fair description of his own proposal calling for 3,000 more troops. But he downplays the number of personnel Obama has called for. The number 524 represents only National Guard troops being sent to Arizona as part an initiative announced in May. It does not include the 1,000 to 1,500 additional border patrol agents in proposed legislation that Obama supports, some of whom would be assigned to Arizona. Still, McCain does appear to want more new agents and troops sent to the border than Obama does. So we rate McCain's statement Half True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

YouTube, Border Security ad

Sen. John McCain website, Senators McCain and Kyl announce border security plan, April 20, 2010

Sen. John McCain website, Senate Armed Services Committee approves McCain amendment to send 6,000 National Guard Troops to our southwest border, May 27, 2010

Congressional Quarterly Today, McCain Says He Has No Plans to Filibuster Defense Authorization Bill, Aug. 4, 2010, accessed via Nexis.

Congressional Quarterly, Border Security Bill Passes in House, Aug. 10, 2010 (subscription required)

U.S. Army, National Guard troops to deploy to U.S.-Mexico Border, July 19, 2010

The Arizona Republic, Brewer disappointed with federal border assistance, June 29, 2010

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John McCain said he would add 3,000 troops to the border while Obama would add only 524

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