Nov 17, 2013 8:41 PM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham
TUCSON - How secure are U.S. military installations? You would think the answer is: very.
But, as the News 4 Tucson Investigators uncovered, one installation, right here in southern Arizona, continues to face potential outside security risks, and the problem doesn't seem to be getting any better.
Fort Huachuca is only 15 miles north of our state's border with Mexico.
The Army post covers more than 73,000 acres. In many parts, the terrain is steep and rugged.
Much of the work that goes on at Fort Huachuca is classified but, as the News 4 Tucson Investigators learned, keeping people who don't belong there out, proves to be a difficult mission.
Fort Huachuca is home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command. It's also the site of hundreds of apprehensions of illegal immigrants each year.
Dave Stoddard, a former U.S. Border Patrol supervisor tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "I think the average American should be petrified."
Stoddard knows the area well. He grew up in Cochise county, served in the U.S. Army, and has even testified before Congress about illegal immigration.
"That smuggling operation going through there is very very sophisticated. They've been getting by with it for years. They know the formula. They know the routine," Stoddard says.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned that in fiscal year 2013, there were 331 undocumented immigrants apprehended on Fort Huachuca. In fiscal year 2012, that number was 112. There were 96 undocumented immigrants captured on-post in fiscal 2011.
Stoddard tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, Fort Huachuca's location in the Huachuca mountains makes it an attractive illegal entry point for border-crossers.
"Once they get into the Huachucas, there is a very worn and established trail though there," Stoddard says.
Stoddard says the problems of illegal immigrants slipping onto the post isn't a new one.
"The military chooses to close its eyes and ignore it," Stoddard says.
In fact, officials at Fort Huachuca refused the News 4 Tucson Investigator's request for an on-camera interview on the issue, saying "apprehending undocumented immigrants is a Department of Homeland Security mission and not a D.o.D. one."
Stoddard says he worries about the possibility that weapons could also be coming across the border, and through Fort Huachuca.
"When you look at the photographs of these aliens coming through the border, and some coming through Fort Huachuca, with backpacks weighing 30 to 50 pounds, who knows what's in there really?" Stoddard says.
For his part, Stoddard tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, he believes the solution is simple.
"Our immigration laws work, they're just not enforced, and therein is the problem," Stoddard says.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators also asked Representative Ron Barber about the problem of undocumented immigrants on Fort Huachuca.
"I feel very strongly that the fort has good security, and the numbers are not huge, when you consider the large number of people that are apprehended across the border. But, anytime we have an incursion we have to be concerned about it," Barber says.
Barber holds a key leadership position on the House Committee on Homeland Security.
"I've been there many many times, and I know that nobody's going to get near any of those secure buildings or assets. The military is well equipped to protect them, and I know they do," Barber says.
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