Good Idea, Bad Idea is a weekly recap of the brilliant and stupid things America’s homeland security community does every day, because sarcasm is good for the soul. This week, a cat catches the tongue of OHA’s Dr. Kathy Brinsfield and Sen. Chuck Schumer gets a paper cut.
There are a host of questions Congress ought to be asking about DHS’ use of Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to provide border surveillance. Congressional staff should know how the Predator’s cost stacks up against other alternative means of surveillance. Perhaps the problem is that decisions on what platform to use for border surveillance are not being made on the basis of risk-reward or cost-benefit.
News reports are trickling out about a decision by a Customs and Border Patrol Predator operator to send a multi-million dollar unmanned aerial vehicle into the Pacific Ocean when it became clear it could not make it back to its home base. This incident demands serious questions from Congress about the future of CBP’s Predator drone use.
There are not many agencies with as diverse a set of responsibilities as U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The two pieces of good news for CBP early in 2014 are that the agency appears to be receiving both an infusion of funds and a confirmed Commissioner to help tackle that very diverse mission set.
By Lora Ries
The House of Representatives is experiencing a burst of energy to encourage DHS to implement a biometric exit system. While we remain without a biometric exit system, the lack of such a system has not been for a lack of legislation. It has been the leadership of DHS that has declined to implement a biometric exit system. What will it take to actually implement biometric exit?
The bipartisan immigration proposal filed this month in the Senate would create a 24/7 surveillance system at U.S. borders that would rely significantly on increased use of drones.
Americans are suspicious of drones. Reports of the unmanned aerial vehicles’ use in war zones have raised concerns about what they might do here at home. For instance, in Seattle earlier this year, a public outcry forced the police department to abandon plans for eye-in-the-sky UAV helicopters.
The Center for International Policy recently released a report entitled “Drones Over the Homeland,” which provides an excellent analysis of CBP’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program from inception to the present. It adds significantly to the debate Congress should be having about the wisdom of using UAVs for surveillance. I hope congressional appropriators will take note.
Border security, by some yardsticks, has come a long way in the past decade. The United States has spent at least $100 billion in its name, to the point where it now eclipses all other federal law enforcement spending. The Border Patrol has doubled in size to more than 21,000 agents. Apprehension of illegal immigrants recently fell to a 40-year low.