GAO: Current Method of Measuring Border Security Is Incomplete

Alissa Tabirian | June 28, 2013 | 11:10am EDT
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(AP Photo)

( -- A Government Accountability Office (GAO) official testified Thursday at a hearing on Capitol Hill that the Department of Homeland Security’s current method of measuring border security efforts is incomplete.

Although DHS counts the number of apprehensions made by Border Patrol agents on the nation’s southwest border, it does not compare that number to the number of estimated illegal aliens entering the country, Rebecca Gambler, director of homeland security and justice for the GAO, told the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.

A recently released GAO report, “Progress and Challenges in DHS Implementation and Assessment Efforts,” states that in 2012, DHS found that “apprehensions across the southwest border decreased 69 percent from fiscal years 2006 through 2011,” but “increased from over 327,000 in fiscal year 2011 to about 357,000 in fiscal year 2012.”

However, the report added, “the number of apprehensions provides information on activity levels but does not inform program results or resource allocation decisions.”

“Is it fair to say that there are no metrics to determine how secure or insecure the border is currently?” subcommittee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked Gambler.

“Currently the department is using the number of apprehensions on the southwest border, between ports of entry, as its goal and measure for border security,” she replied.

“But that’s an incomplete metric. Would you agree with that?” Chaffetz persisted.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security ( Starr)

Gambler responded that the Border Patrol is “not able to assess the effectiveness of its efforts because it doesn’t compare apprehensions to estimated entrants.”

According to the report, “Border Patrol is in the process of developing performance goals and measures for assessing the progress of its efforts to secure the border between POEs [ports of entry] and for informing the identification and allocation of resources needed to secure the border, but has not yet identified milestones and timeframes for developing and implementing them.”

Chaffetz noted that merely counting the number of apprehensions “does not indicate whether federal government efforts to secure the border are actually achieving operational control or not.”

Other witnesses at the hearing included Michael Fisher, chief of U.S. Border Patrol, David J. Murphy, assisting acting commissioner of the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, and Thomas Homan, executive associate director of Enforcement and Removal Operations for Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).

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