Printer Friendly

Border Patrol: Checkpoints Contribute to Border Patrol's Mission, but More Consistent Data Collection and Performance Measurement Could Improve Effectiveness.

GAO-09-824 August 31, 2009

The U.S. Border Patrol, part of the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP), operates checkpoints on U.S. roads, mainly in the southwest border states where most illegal entries occur. As part of a three-tiered strategy to maximize detection and apprehension of illegal aliens, Border Patrol agents at checkpoints screen vehicles for illegal aliens and contraband. GAO was asked to assess (1) checkpoint performance and factors affecting performance, (2) checkpoint performance measures, (3) community impacts considered in checkpoint placement and design, and (4) the impact of checkpoint operations on nearby communities. GAO work included a review of Border Patrol data and guidance; visits to checkpoints and communities in five Border Patrol sectors across four southwest border states, selected on the basis of size, type, and volume, among other factors; and discussions with community members and Border Patrol officials in headquarters and field locations.

Checkpoints have contributed to the Border Patrol's ability to seize illegal drugs, apprehend illegal aliens, and screen potential terrorists; however, several factors have impeded higher levels of performance. Checkpoint contributions included over one-third of the Border Patrol's total drug seizures, according to Border Patrol data. Despite these and other contributions, Border Patrol officials said that additional staff, canine teams, and inspection technology were needed to increase checkpoint effectiveness. Border Patrol officials said they plan to increase these resources. The Border Patrol established three performance measures to report the results of checkpoint operations, and while they provide some insight into checkpoint activity, they do not indicate if checkpoints are operating efficiently and effectively. In addition, GAO found that a lack of management oversight and unclear checkpoint data collection guidance resulted in the overstatement of checkpoint performance results in fiscal year 2007 and 2008 agency performance reports, as well as inconsistent data collection practices at checkpoints. These factors hindered management's ability to monitor the need for program improvement. Internal control standards require that agencies accurately record and report data necessary to demonstrate agency performance, and that they provide proper oversight of these activities. The Border Patrol generally followed its guidelines for considering community safety and convenience in four recent checkpoint placement and design decisions, including the proposed permanent checkpoint on Interstate 19 in Arizona. Current and projected traffic volume was a key factor in the design of the proposed Interstate 19 checkpoint, but was not considered when determining the number of inspection lanes for three recently completed checkpoints in Texas due to a lack of guidance. Having explicit guidance on using current and projected traffic volumes could help ensure that future checkpoints are appropriately sized. Individuals GAO contacted who live near checkpoints generally supported their operations but expressed concerns regarding property damage that occurs when illegal aliens and smugglers circumvent checkpoints to avoid apprehension. The Border Patrol is not yet using performance measures it has developed to examine the extent that checkpoint operations affect quality of life in surrounding communities. The Border Patrol uses patrols and technology to detect and respond to circumventions, but officials said that other priorities sometimes precluded positioning more than a minimum number of agents on checkpoint circumvention routes. The Border Patrol has not documented the number of agents needed to address circumventions at the proposed I-19 checkpoint. Given the concerns of nearby residents regarding circumventions, conducting a workforce planning needs assessment at the checkpoint design stage could help ensure that resources needed for addressing such activity are planned for and deployed.

Recommendations

Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Richard M. Stana Team: Government Accountability Office: Homeland Security and Justice Phone: (202) 512-8816

Recommendations for Executive Action

----------

Recommendation: To improve the reliability and accountability of checkpoint performance results to the Congress and the public, the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection should establish milestones for determining the feasibility of a checkpoint performance model that would allow the Border Patrol to compare apprehensions and seizures to the level of illegal activity passing through the checkpoint undetected.

Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

----------

Recommendation: To improve the reliability and accountability of checkpoint performance results to the Congress and the public, the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection should establish internal controls for management oversight of the accuracy, consistency, and completeness of checkpoint performance data.

Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

----------

Recommendation: To improve the reliability and accountability of checkpoint performance results to the Congress and the public, the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection should implement the quality of life measures that have already been identified by the Border Patrol to evaluate the impact that checkpoints have on local communities. Implementing these measures would include identifying appropriate data sources available at the local, state, or federal level, and developing guidance for how data should be collected and used in support of these measures.

Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

----------

Recommendation: To improve the reliability and accountability of checkpoint performance results to the Congress and the public, the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection should use the information generated from the quality of life measures in conjunction with other relevant factors to inform resource allocations and address identified impacts.

Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

----------

Recommendation: To ensure that the checkpoint design process results in checkpoints that are sized and resourced to meet operational and community needs, the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection should require that current and expected traffic volumes be considered by the Border Patrol when determining the number of inspection lanes at new permanent checkpoints, that traffic studies be conducted and documented, and that these requirements be explicitly documented in Border Patrol checkpoint design guidelines and standards.

Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

----------

Recommendation: To ensure that the checkpoint design process results in checkpoints that are sized and resourced to meet operational and community needs, the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection should, in connection with planning for new or upgraded checkpoints, conduct a workforce planning needs assessment for checkpoint staffing allocations to determine the resources needed to address anticipated levels of illegal activity around the checkpoint.

Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Categories: Homeland Security, Aliens, Border patrols, Border security, Data collection, Drug trafficking, Homeland security, Illegal aliens, Inspection, Internal controls, Monitoring, Needs assessment, Performance measures, Property damages, Reporting requirements, Risk assessment, Risk management, Standards, Strategic planning, Terrorists
COPYRIGHT 2009 Stonehenge International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:Sep 1, 2009
Words:1282
Previous Article:Bid Protest Ruling: Electronic Vision Access Solutions.
Next Article:Bid Protest Ruling: Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting Co. LLP.
Topics:


Related Articles
Border Patrol: Available Data on Interior Checkpoints Suggest Differences in Sector Performance.
New ag-inspector mission proposed for border agents.
Eyes in the sky.
Looking back on operation Jump Start.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters