The inspector general (IG) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) on June 11 that it has not adequately obtained resources to support its unmanned drones, while also admonishing the agency for failing to properly plan for use of the aircraft.
CBP’s Office of Air and Marine has never appropriately budgeted and acquired all of the necessary resources to support its 10 existing and planned UAV aircraft, said the IG report. Moreover, CBP has not figured out how to best allocate and track the time for flying UAVs in support of its own missions or at the request of others.
Specifically, the IG office concluded that: CBP did not plan to have enough money to support UAV equipment as well as operations and maintenance; the agency lacks a formal process for managing and prioritizing mission requests for its UAVs; and it does not properly seek reimbursement of any expenses incurred while its UAVs fulfill mission requests from other agencies.
CBP should produce plans to address these shortfalls and further should not buy any more drones until it has done so, the IG office recommended.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, lamented the lack of planning and resources at CBP to support the use of Predator drones identified by the inspector general's office (OIG). Thompson supported the use of the drones but disapproved of wasting taxpayer money on systems that are not supporting border security or disaster response.
“Unfortunately, this report clearly shows that CBP is not managing its unmanned aircraft program effectively,” said Thompson. “The agency is spending money without adequate or proper planning, resulting in expensive aircraft spending most of the time idle on the ground. CBP must implement the OIG’s recommendations to ensure the UAV program makes most out of taxpayer money and our border security budget. CBP must also institute procedures so that its programs have the proper planning in place.”
In response to the report, CBP generally agreed that it must produce the plans sought by the IG office. The agency said it has a Strategic Air and Marine Plan, which outlines UAV purchases and support for the next five years.
In 2011, CBP had spent about $152.3 million to buy seven Predators and support equipment, according to IG estimates. The agency received two more Predators after the IG office wrapped up its investigation. One Predator-B outfitted to support the agency costs approx. $18 million.
CBP has set up bases to fly Predators in Sierra Vista, Ariz.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Cocoa Beach, Fla.; and Grand Forks, N.D.