Report: Border Patrol Agents Have Rarely Requested a ‘Wall’

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By on March 22, 2018 in Agency News with 0 Comments
CBP border wall prototypes in a row at construction site

A total of 8 southwest border wall prototypes were unveiled by Customs and Border Protection near San Diego in October 2017

A new report released today by the Minority Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee says that Customs and Border Protection agents have rarely mentioned a wall as a solution to the more vulnerable areas on the southwest border.

The report shows instead that additional technology and personnel (such as such as sensors, cameras, improved radio communications systems, additional hiring, and better training) were more common solutions discussed for border gaps in the data that the Senate Committee reviewed in compiling the report.

Map of southwestern United States showing the Customs and Border Protection defined sectors

The Border Patrol divides the southwest border geographically into nine “sectors”: San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, Tucson, El Paso, Big Bend, Del Rio, Laredo, and the Rio Grande Valley. Each sector has its own headquarters and sector chief. Sectors are further divided into a number of different “stations” and “zones.” The head of each station is known as the Patrol Agent in Charge. (Source: Government Accountability Office)

The report was based on a review of data collected annually by Customs and Border Protection to identity vulnerabilities (A.K.A. capability gaps) that inhibit Border Patrol agents from securing the border. In its analysis of the data, the report found the following:

  • Less than 1% of solutions Border Patrol agents proposed for closing capability gaps along the southwest border in FY 2017 referenced a “wall.”
  • Less than 4% referenced “fence” or “fencing.”
  • 14 capability gaps on the southwest border received an Urgent and Compelling ranking, only one of which included a reference to a wall or fencing as possible solutions.
  • Of the 902 capability gaps identified in FY 2017, 672 were classified as vulnerabilities that typically indicate a need for technological and personnel approaches to securing the border.

Committee Minority Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who led issuing the report, said in a statement, “This report reinforces what I’ve heard from frontline border agents and CBP leaders alike, that the top priorities for addressing vulnerabilities along our border are additional personnel and better technology. We can’t let politics get in the way of our efforts to strengthen border security and protect our country.”

Congress is currently debating a $1.3 trillion spending bill in an effort to pass a budget to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of the week. Among the items in the bill: $1.6 billion for barriers on the southern border. According to the Washington Post, that amount is broken out as follows:

$251 million is earmarked specifically for “secondary fencing” near San Diego, where fencing is already in place; $445 million is for no more than 25 miles of “levee fencing”; $196 million is for “primary pedestrian fencing” in the Rio Grande Valley; $445 million is for the replacement of existing fencing in that area; and the rest is for planning, design and technology — not for wall construction.

The Senate Committee’s full report is included below.

Border Security – Analysis of Vulnerabilities Identified by Frontline Agents

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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