From “boots on the ground” to “boots in the air” National Guard at border cut to about 300.

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The Obama administration will keep a reduced contingent of National Guard troops working along the Mexican border for the next year, the Defense Department said Tuesday.

Starting in January, the force of 1,200 National Guard troops at the border will be reduced to fewer than 300 at a cost of about $60 million, said Paul Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense.

The remaining troops will shift their focus from patrolling the border on the ground looking for illegal immigrants and smugglers to aerial surveillance missions using military helicopters and airplanes equipped with high-tech radar and other gear. Exactly where those troops will fly or how many aircraft will be used has not been decided, he said.

“We are basically going from boots on the ground to boots in the air,” said David Aguilar, deputy commissioner for Customs and Border Protection.

Source: Alicia A. Caldwell for the Associated Press via MSNBC.