Murray Applauds Air Wing's Role in Busting Drug Ring

Jun 29 2006

Northern Border to receive 20 additional full time employees, thanks to Murray's work

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today applauded the contribution of the Bellingham Northern Border Air Wing in the arrest of more than 40 individuals involved in smuggling drugs into Washington state across the U.S.-Canada border.

Murray - who used her position on the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee to single-handedly secure funding to make Bellingham the home to the nation's first Northern Border air wing - today also announced an addition 20 FTEs (full time employees) to fully staff the wing.

"I applaud ICE, our Northern Border Air Wing pilots, and their support staff, for their tireless work to crack this drug ring and protect our communities," Murray said. "By having the nation's first Northern Border air wing in Bellingham we've told drug smugglers, terrorists, and those who wish to do us harm, that we're watching the border and we'll catch you."

Following September 11th, Murray worked tirelessly to expand permanent monitoring of air activity along the Northern Border and added $71.6 million to the Senate’s FY04 Homeland Security Appropriations bill for the Northern Border air wing.

The Administration’s original budget request that year included no funding for the air wing and the House Appropriations Committee position made the task of commissioning the wing even more difficult. Not only was there no money in the House bill, but members of the House Appropriations Committee allowed language into their bill that would have actually delayed implementation of this critical security asset.

Murray used her position on the Conference Committee to fight for the funding and ultimately retained $35.2 million to establish the wing.

"I knew we needed to get these planes and pilots in the air, and today we're seeing the payoff in a major crackdown in drug smuggling," Murray said.

Murray also announced that she helped secure funding in the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill –which passed the full Senate Appropriations Committee today – to fully staff the Bellingham Northern Border Air Wing. This means that the Air Wing will now gain 20 FTEs to help keep our communities safe and secure.

"Today's arrest announcements coupled with a fully staffed Air Wing give us the momentum to continue making progress on the security challenges before us," Murray said. "This air wing is a powerful new tool in our efforts to combat terrorism, drug smuggling and stop other criminals from coming across our border. I'm so proud to have been a partner in the effort to bring this air wing to Bellingham and I will continue to work to ensure Washington state is a strong front line in the war on terror."