Report notes weaknesses in BP checkpoints
By James Gilbert
The Yuma Sun (AZ), September 1, 2009
The U.S. Border Patrol needs to better manage the checkpoints it operates on roads in the southwestern United States, including the one near Yuma, according to a federal oversight agency report released earlier this week.
The 147-page report, released Monday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, says while the checkpoints do help the agency seize drugs and apprehend illegal immigrants, the agency doesnt adequately measure their effectiveness and the impact they have on surrounding areas where smugglers go to try and evade them.
As a result, U.S. Homeland Security officials say theyre moving to address recommendations contained in the oversight agencys report on Border Patrol checkpoints, including a proposed permanent facility on Interstate 19 between Tucson and Nogales, Ariz.
'The report did point out areas where we can improve in both data collection and operational efficiency, and we are working diligently to implement those suggestions,' said Yuma Sector Border Patrol spokesman Ben Vik.
While Vik said the agency would not comment directly on the report's findings, he said that Border Patrol agrees with the suggested recommendations.
The 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.
'The Border Patrol welcomes this independent study and through the GOA evaluation, the agency can improve its operation as to how it operates and conducts business,' Vik said.
The six recommendations listed in the report are:
* Customs and Border Protection (CBP) should establish internal controls for management oversight of the accuracy, consistency and completeness of checkpoint performance data.
* CBP 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.
* CBP 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.
* CBP 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.
* CBP 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.
* CBP should, in connection with planning for new or upgraded checkpoints, conduct a work force planning needs assessment for checkpoint staffing allocations to determine the resources needed to address anticipated levels of illegal activity around the checkpoint.
Vik said the Border Patrol has already developed several work groups comprised of subject matter experts from both headquarters and the field to take an objective look at the recommendations.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The GAO report is available online at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09824.pdf