Facing an aggressive implementation schedule following President Trump's Jan. 25, 2017, Executive Order 13767 "Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements," Customs and Border Protection doesn't want to get fenced in by poor acquisition practices.
The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General is scrutinizing CBP's decisions between 2006 and 2011 relating to the Secure Border Initiative and its related sensor-driven SBInet program and has released a special report, "Lessons Learned from Prior Reports on CBP's SBI and Acquisitions Related to Securing our Border."
According to the report, CBP is currently tasked with obtaining and maintaining areas of both physical and see-through "situational awareness" walls along the southern border of the United States, while examining the concept of what a wall system can be and the resources, infrastructure and technology required to secure the entire southern border.
To do this, CBP is following the DHS four-phase acquisition framework, which entails need, analyze/select, obtain and produce/deploy/support/dispose stages. CBP is currently in the need phase, so DHS has issued a review of SBI audits to reinforce the importance of rigorous analysis and transparency.
The bypassing of required processes in 2006 resulted in a multimillion-dollar contract being awarded without the proper foundations for oversight and cost control. Ultimately, sets forth the report, CBP terminated its program in 2011 because of missed milestones, wasted resources and no plan for correction.
CBP is cautioned not to repeat the lack of documentation that in 2011 would have been needed to justify the specific types, quantities and deployment locations of border surveillance technologies proposed in the Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan. In the past CBP also fell short when conducting environmental impact assessments prior to constructing fencing and vehicle barriers, so the agency must commit to proceeding in an environmentally sensitive manner to build a wall where it makes sense.
A lack of proper component and system qualification testing contributed to the failure of SBInet's sensor towers, so a proper analysis of proven, commercially available systems could fill critical gaps in capability and the establishment of a more robust master testing and evaluation plan is a required.
Alongside strong and clear definitions of operational requirements, DHS says CBP must develop measures of effectiveness so it can address challenges in adequately overseeing acquisitions, building metrics into program planning and management, and collecting reliable and complete data for cost estimating and program performance.
The appropriate amount of contractor oversight personnel and value management must be implemented. Following the allocation of significant funds to a program like CBP's unmanned aircraft systems, the agency was unable to demonstrate how much the program has improved border security.
On order to protect taxpayer dollars, there must be a much more focused and stabilized direction for acquisition even as CBP simultaneously solicits the designs and build to secure the 2,000 miles of border, concludes the report.
The entire report can be viewed on the DHS OIG website.