US Border Patrol agents Colleen Agle (L) and Richard Funke (R) patrol the border between Arizona and Mexico at the town of Nogales. (MARK RALSTON / AFP)
The Department of Homeland Security can strengthen efforts to modernize a key border enforcement system, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a report released this week.
The system, known as TECS (derived from Treasury Enforcement Communications System, a name that is no longer used) is for deciding whether people should be allowed into the United States. As such, it is one line of defense against terrorism; TECS is also used by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, the GAO said in the report.
But with time, the system has been come increasingly expensive to maintain; under a modernization project launched in 2008, two DHS branchesóCustoms and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcementóare sharing responsibility for the $1.5 billion program.
While both have adopted leading practices in managing many of the risks, the report said, they have mixed results in determining what they want the new system to do. After ICE, for example, failed to complete work on some 2,600 initial requirements, about 70 percent were dropped, the report said. ICE issued new guidance last March, but it has not been yet been implemented, according to the GAO.
Departmental oversight has also had a mixed record. While DHS governance bodies have made sure that fixes are identified and tracked, their oversight has sometimes drawn on faulty data, thus limiting its effectiveness, the report said.