Homeland Security Advised to Put Agency Border Assignments in Writing

A CBP vehicle patrols the Arizona/Mexico border in 2011. A CBP vehicle patrols the Arizona/Mexico border in 2011. United States Customs and Border Protection file photo

The Homeland Security Department’s efforts to effectively deploy resources to enforce the permeable Southwestern border have suffered from the lack of written agreements with a dozen partner agencies, the Government Accountability Office determined.

The report dated June 27 comes in the midst of a crisis where thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing violence and deprivation in Central America have amassed in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. The minors have been misinformed about high prospects for being reunited with relatives in the United States.

“Opportunities exist to strengthen collaborative mechanisms along the Southwest border,” auditors found after reviewing for the past year DHS’ Joint Field Command, which manages Customs and Border Protection resources in coordination with other federal and state agencies. The report, requested by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said that while detailed and regularly reported performance measures are in place, the agencies are facing “resource management challenges” and “limited sharing of best practices across mechanisms.”

The multi-agency approach is intended to improve intelligence and other information sharing to help allocate resources effectively against changing threats to border enforcement.

Joint Field Command officials “noted that the establishment of the JFC was a major realignment of CBP operations in Arizona as well as a cultural change for personnel in the field. The officials noted that field-level resistance to the JFC is not unexpected given the massive undertaking of the realignment, and that the components are now recognizing the benefits of the JFC.”

Auditors noted that “DHS has not established written agreements with partners in the [Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats] and [South Texas Campaign] Unified Command—the entity within STC used for coordinating activities among federal and state agencies—consistent with best practices for sustaining effective collaboration.”

GAO recommended that Homeland Security establish written agreements with the dozen agencies to better share best practices and allocate resources. DHS agreed.

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