This past Monday, Politico hosted a Playbook breakfast conversation with the three individuals who have served as DHS Secretary since its inception – Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano. Former Governor Ridge who addressed why America needs a cabinet-level agency to address homeland security issues. While I am a firm believer that America needs a Department of Homeland Security, I am also a believer in continuous improvement, and in that respect, congressional oversight should rightfully be focused on asking questions about DHS as it starts its second decade.
How hard is it for migrants to cross the southwest border illegally and enter into the United States? That question has long been difficult to answer, but it is one that has become more urgent as Congress prepares once again to consider a broader immigration reform. A new report from the Government Accountability Office gives a surprising assessment – that it appears to have become far more difficult than most Americans realize.
Congratulations are in order for the amazing success recently achieved by CBP’s Office of Air and Marine. CBP plans to award a sole source contract to General Atomics to buy up to 14 Predator UAVs, at a potential cost of $443,090,000 over a 60-month period. So, congratulations to CBP. While the rest of the DHS mission will be subject to budget cuts amid the sequestration debate, and seemingly without concern for those personnel who will be laid off, CBP is telling the rest of us we can be comfortable knowing that giant drones will be patrolling the skies above the U.S. borders for up to 20 hours at a time at the mere cost of $3,500 per hour.
By Doug Doan
So far, none of the presidential candidates have mentioned much about Homeland Security. With so many other problems, issues surrounding how best to organize, manage and lead the vast DHS bureaucracy are just not that important. Too bad. I would have liked to see the candidates talk about what they might do. Here is an agenda that I happily provide.
It helps those of us who might be considered “experts” in Washington, DC to get out once in a while. there is a need to see the real world and talk to real people. I was able to interact with both “non-Beltway” Americans in a recent trek through the Pacific Northwest. Despite the difficulties in the world, we have much to be grateful for, and friendly partner to the north (Canada) is one the United States should never take for granted.
As C-TPAT has matured, Customs and Border Protection’s emphasis on compliance is sensible, and CBP is to be commended for ensuring that the program is a real security program and not merely a “paper program.” But CBP also must be careful to ensure that suspension and revocation decisions are made consistently across C-TPAT membership and that decisions are made in a timely way and in accordance with transparent procedures. There is anecdotal information that consistency and transparency are not yet hallmarks of CBP’s compliance efforts.
Earlier this month, I testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement on “The Welcoming Business Travelers and Tourists to America Act of 2011.” My testimony makes clear that while tourism is a valid goal, it cannot be done in an atmosphere where immigration law is not being enforced domestically, visa processing becomes a rubber stamping process, and the countries targeted have some of the highest overstay populations in the United States.
Maps Show 330 Illegal Alien Crossing Ariz. Border in One Night in March, Including Ultralight Incursion
During the night of March 23, 2012, illegal activity was shockingly high along 12-mile stretch of border in the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in Arizona and extending into the United States – 330 illegal aliens in one night. Over the course of a year, it can add up to 120,450 illegal entries just along these 12 miles of the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector. The destruction and illegal use of federal taxpayer lands and the great chance of success that the drug cartels and alien smugglers have tell a story of a border where illegal activity is high and the border remains out of control.
After two decades of pouring resources and technology into patrolling the U.S. border with Mexico, there are encouraging signs that Congress is about to start asking the right question: what exactly have we bought for all that money? But the administration is continuing to drag its heels. A May 8 hearing of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on border and maritime security was intended to provide some answers to the critical question of how to assess progress along the border.
Sunday’s LA Times contains a story that every Member of Congress and homeland security stakeholder ought to read. For the first time that I can remember, AMO Chief Michael Kostelnik, CBP’s main evangelist for acquiring Predator UAVs for border enforcement, admits that the results have NOT been impressive, especially in helping capture illegal drug runners.