LAREDO, Texas — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday she was being "firm" rather than testy with Gov. Rick Perry recently while he was again hammering the federal government over security along the Texas border.
Napolitano spoke with Perry late last month as Hurricane Alex threatened Texas before making landfall in Mexico. When Perry steered the call over storm readiness toward getting more National Guard troops, Perry said Napolitano became "a little testy."
"He said I was testy. I thought I was firm," Napolitano said, smiling.
The quip got laughs from an auditorium of border sheriff deputies and Border Patrol agents at Texas A&M International University, where Napolitano announced $60 million in grants to strengthen security along the southwest border. Texas will receive $17 million, more than any other state, under the program known as Operation Stonegarden.
The money is part of what Napolitano called a record amount of resources the southwest border has received since President Barack Obama took office. Napolitano reminded law enforcement officials how Border Patrol troops have doubled since 2004, and said illegal weapons seizures along the border rose 29 percent compared to the previous year.
Napolitano said she perhaps needed to provide "more information" to Perry, who has been slapping at Washington on everything from border security to education to federal spending.
"The numbers tell the tale," Napolitano said. "I would simply say look at the numbers."
Perry has maintained the numbers aren't sufficient. A day before Napolitano arrived in Texas, Perry sent a letter to Obama and Napolitano expressing his disappointment that Texas would only be given 250 National Guard troops.
Perry, who asked for 1,000 troops last year, called the number "grossly insufficient" to cover the large Texas border.
"Sending only 20 percent of these much-needed assets to Texas is unfair and inadequate," Perry wrote. "Furthermore, when you take into account the ramp-up and ramp-down times associated with a military action of this kind, this deployment would support sustained operations for only an estimated four months."
Napolitano phoned Perry, a Republican running for an unprecedented third term as governor, before Alex made landfall June 30 to ask if Texas had all the help it needed.
"I said 'yes, I have all the help I need, but I don't have all the help I need along the border of Texas,'" Perry told reporters the next day. "I said 'The idea that you would send 250 National Guard troops to a 1,200-mile border and think that is anything but an affront is beyond me.'"
Napolitano, who was a Democratic governor of Arizona before joining Obama's cabinet, said troop deployments don't tell the whole story.
"You can't just look at the National Guard alone," Napolitano said. "You have to look at the entire universe of resources that are being deployed to the border, and into Texas specifically. And those resources have never been greater."
Arizona will get the second-biggest slice of funding under Operation Stonegarden for 2010 at nearly $14 million. California will receive more than $12 million.