Monday, December 31, 2012



Note: Have just now started plowing though the new BP strategic
plan All of the following gives the reader a great opportunity to
work on their government speak.

(Despite surveillance systems projects, among others, paying your
correspondents bills over past few years, surveillance only shows
what is or happened. By itself, it doesn't stop anything.)

As with most strategic plans of most agencies, recommend knee high

Note: Mr. Barry gives a somewhat different "progressive" perspective
on border issues. But does point out some interesting things. For
example the low reported crime rates in border towns north of the
line. Maybe because of the saturation of law enforcement?

Border Patrol's New Strategy Highlights Agency's Lack of Clear Direction
Saturday, 29 December 2012 00:00
By Tom Barry, Truthout | News Analysis

Increasing segments of the public are more frequently condemning anti-
immigrant policies and practices, and states and communities are
rejecting harsh federal drug laws. Yet the border security buildup -
which is almost exclusively focused on stemming immigration and on
drug enforcement - continues.
The US Border Patrol is one of the few US agencies that is rushing
ahead with vast new spending programs, including a $1.5 billion
revived virtual fence project and a new half-billion project to more
than double its drone fleet.
Pressed by politicians and border security hawks to demonstrate how
it intends to "secure the border," the Border Patrol recently
released its 2012-2016 Strategic Plan for border security. The
document, only the third such plan in the agency's history, stresses
that border security operations will be "risk-based, intelligence-
In its new strategy, the Border Patrol appears to be out of step with
political and social trends in the homeland, where society and the
political community are adopting less one-dimensional, less
restrictive and less fear-based policies regarding immigrants and
marijuana - the two main targets of the agency's border security

Also see: The Border Security Muddle Post 9/11

Rather than signaling a new commitment to more cost-effective and
strategic operational directions, the new strategy statement serves
to highlight the agency's stunning lack of strategic direction.
A New Strategy Based on Risk Assessments and Intelligence
The Border Patrol describes the new strategy - the third in the
agency's history - as a "risk-based, intelligence-driven" plan to
secure the border.
The release of the new strategic plan came on the heels of intense
criticism of the Border Patrol's failure to ensure "operational
control" over large sections of the United States' Southwestern
border. "Operational control" was the stated goal of the 2004
strategic plan, which defined the concept as "the ability to detect,
respond, and interdict border penetrations in areas deemed as high
priority for threat potential or other national security objectives."
The new Border Patrol strategy makes not a single reference to the
former goal of operational control, and the plan doesn't include any
performance measures. The 2012-2016 strategy also suffers from a
failure to specify on what grounds risks will be assessed, how
threats will be evaluated and how new spending will be determined.
In his introduction to the new strategic plan, former Border Patrol
chief and current acting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Deputy
Commissioner David Aguilar explained:
The resource base built and the operations conducted over the past
two decades have enabled the Border Patrol to focus on developing and
implementing a Strategic Plan based on risk: identifying high risk
areas and flows and targeting our response to meet those threats.
This risk-based approach is reflected in the core pillars of the
Strategic Plan - Information, Integration and Rapid Response. These
pillars are central to the 21st century Border Patrol we continue to
build. Information and intelligence will empower Border Patrol
leadership and agents to get ahead of the threat and to be predictive
and proactive.
In his introductory note, Border Patrol Acting Chief Michael Fisher
promised: "We will build upon an approach that puts the Border
Patrol's greatest capabilities in place to combat the greatest
risks." The slim 30-page, graphic-laden strategy statement includes
44 uses of the word "risk" and 64 references to "threats." The Border
Patrol promises to "apply the principles of risk-management to its
mission set."
In its new strategic plan, the Border Patrol gives no indication how
it will rank or prioritize risks and threats. Instead, it merely
describes the new bureaucratic apparatus that will make these risk
assessments - graphically illustrating this bureaucratic process with
a complex and confusing flow chart.
The Border Patrol claims that it has created the following risk-
assessment process:
Integrated Mission Analysis (IMA) uses a systematic and comprehensive
methodology to track, assess, and forecast vulnerabilities,
consequences, and capabilities of CBP (and, by extension, the US
Border Patrol) and matches these with known or potential threats. The
resulting Border Assessment Level (BAL) helps CBP answer the
question: Is our capability commensurate with the threat?
The IMA process supports the Border Patrol's risk-based approach to
border security by integrating operational and threat-condition
assessments. Once harnessed, these operational statistics, threat
indicators, and warnings will be used to estimate risk. Outputs from
the IMA process will aid security stakeholders in determining
operational gaps and critical threats, vulnerabilities and risks.
Whether the proposed IMA and BAL become firmly established and useful
processes within CBP remains to be seen. According to the strategic
plan, the analysis and assessment process will allow the agency to
evaluate whether the Border Patrol's "capability [is] commensurate
with the threat." It is unclear, however, how the Border Patrol is
defining and evaluating the threats against which its capacities are
Evolving Strategy: Numbers and Threats
Rather than clarifying the border security strategy, the 2012-2016
Border Patrol Strategic Plan highlights the difficulty that the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has had in defining what the
newest federal bureaucracy means by "border security." The new
strategy sheds little light on what it will cost the nation to
"secure the border" and how threats to border security are assessed
and prioritized.
Although the Border Patrol dates back to 1924, it wasn't until 70
years later that the agency issued its first national strategy. The
Border Patrol's first national strategy, released in 1994, came in
response to rising illegal immigration flows through the border's
main urban corridors, mainly north from Juárez and Tijuana. The 1994
so-called "prevention through deterrence" strategy called for
blocking the most frequented immigration corridors with concentrated
deployments of Border Patrol agents and the targeted buildup of new
what is known as "tactical infrastructure" such as border walls,
stadium lighting and other barriers. As a result, illegal immigration
flows would be diverted, it was argued, to more remote and difficult-
to-traverse stretches of the border, thereby creating an effective
disincentive for would-be immigrants.
The central objective of the operations established in accordance
with the first strategic plan - an objective which was only partially
successful - was to diminish illegal border crossings. As intended,
illegal crossings through the targeted sections of the border did
decline, in some areas dramatically. But new major south-north
immigration corridors emerged, confounding the Border Patrol
strategists. As a result, the Border Patrol was pressed to quickly
extend its prevention through deterrence tactics to other regions of
the largely rural areas of the border which had previously seen only
trickles of illegal immigration. Another consequence of the 1994
deterrence strategy was the dramatic increase in horrific deaths as
immigrants seeking to enter the United States illegally attempted to
cross through harsh border landscapes and raging rivers.
Following the 1994 strategic plan, the Border Patrol shifted to
threat-centered strategies. There is no reference to the prevention
through deterrence concept in the latest strategy statements, yet
these deterrence tactics continue to guide Border Patrol operations.
The National Border Patrol Strategy of 2004, which came a year after
the Border Patrol was folded into the DHS, marked the transition from
a border control to a border security framework. While the priority
of the Border Patrol stayed the same - "to establish and maintain
operational control over our Nation's borders" - the focus of that
control expanded to include terrorists and terrorist weapons, in
addition to illegal immigrants. This new counterterrorism mission
tapped military terminology - such as "operational control," "defense-
in-depth," and "situational awareness" - to describe the agency's new
strategic operations.
In introducing the first post-9/11 strategy, then-CBP Commissioner
Robert Bonner in 2004 tied border control goals to the Bush
administration's war against terrorism, stating, "This goal is vital
to national security."
Adopting military jargon, the Border Patrol in 2004 set forth the
strategic concept of operational control of the border. The degree to
which the Border Patrol achieved operational control would be the
metric by which the progress in ensuring border security would be
Escalating pressure of illegal immigration flows gave rise to the
Border Patrol's first national strategy, while the perceived new
threat environment after 9/11 sparked the formulation of the second
strategy in 2004. In contrast, the Border Patrol has offered no
convincing rationale for formulating its newest national strategy.
What likely precipitated the rather haphazard development of the new
strategy was not any change in what the Border Patrol calls the
"threat environment" or the change in the numbers of apprehension and
seizures. Instead, a political uproar associated with the performance
measures associated with the 2004 report sparked the hurried
production of the new strategic plan.
DHS and other Bush administration officials began referring to the
Border Patrol strategy of instituting operational control over the
border, particularly as part of the 2005 DHS initiative called the
Secure Border Initiative (SBI). In 2006, DHS Secretary Michael
Chertoff said that the range of SBI programs, including the new
border fence and the virtual fence, would result in "operational
control" of the Southwest border by the end of 2010.
Pressed to show its rate of progress in securing the border, DHS and
the Border Patrol in 2004 established a border-security schematic
designed to document the varying degrees of security - descending
from "effective" or full "operational control" to "managed" control,
"monitored," "low-level monitored," and "remote/low activity." The
Border Patrol based the ranking mostly on the degree of presence of
personnel, infrastructure and technological surveillance, although
the subjective evaluations of Border Patrol officials in each sector
were also factored in.
When the Border Patrol began releasing its estimates of the degree of
operational control in early 2010, the figures unleashed a firestorm
of criticism by border security proponents. Only 13 percent of the
8,067 miles under Border Patrol jurisdiction were categorized as
being under full or effective operational control. Along the
Southwest border, only 44 percent of the nearly 2,000 miles were
ranked as being under "effective" or "managed control." Along the
Northern border, just 2 percent was under operational control by 2010.
Border security hawks lambasted the Border Patrol for its failure to
achieve operational control of large stretches of the Southwestern
border and almost the entire Northern border. In turn, they escalated
their demands for more fencing, more drones, more agents, more remote
ground surveillance and more National Guard on the border.
The Border Patrol countered that the areas that were not under
operational control were generally rugged, infrequently crossed
sections of the border. While these areas did not meet the high
standard of operational control - including fencing, high
concentration of agents and an array of electronic surveillance -
they were constantly monitored, explained the Border Patrol.
It should be noted that the 2004 strategic plan did qualify and limit
what the Border Patrol meant by operational control in the 2004
strategy statement defining it as "the ability to detect, respond,
and interdict border penetrations in areas deemed as high priority
for threat potential or other national security objectives." What is
more, the Border Patrol acknowledged that operational control "may be
limited to specific smuggling corridors or other geographically
defined areas" - seemingly contradicting the grand ambition of
operational control over the nation's borders.
The Border Patrol, finding itself in a rhetorical trap of its own
making, had dropped all references to "operational" or "effective"
control by the end of fiscal year 2010. The concept of operational
control is nowhere to be found in the 2012-2016 strategic plan. Nor
is there any official explanation by DHS, CBP or the Border Patrol as
to why this strategic framework was all but erased from official
Consternation and Skepticism About Border Security Strategy
Consternation and skepticism have been among the main reactions to
the Border Patrol's new border security strategy. The Border Patrol's
failure to define what was really new about the strategy, the plan's
lack of details and the absence of any metrics to measure the
agency's progress underscored existing concerns about the Border
Patrol's fuzzy strategic focus and lack of accountability.
Since 2010, the Border Patrol has been promising to set forth new
quantitative and qualitative measures of its border security
operations. Yet the new strategy included no performance measures
Rep. Candice Miller, the Michigan Republican who chairs the Border
and Maritime Security Subcommittee, opened a May 8, 2012, hearing on
border security strategy by pointedly noting, "The 2012 to 2016
strategy lacks a tangible way to measure our efforts on the border."
Echoing Miller, Rebecca Gambler, who directs the Government
Accountability Office's (GAO) Homeland Security and Justice office,
told the subcommittee: "What's really important and really key going
forward is for the Border Patrol and the department [DHS] to move
more toward outcome-oriented measures that would allow the
department, the Congress and the public to really get a sense of how
effective the Border Patrol's efforts are."
The Border Patrol's problems were not limited to concerns about the
lack of metrics to evaluate the success of its strategy and border
security operations. During the hearing, Fisher had repeated
difficulty in explaining the strategic thrust of the new plan.
After Fisher finished presenting the strategy, Miller quizzically
paged through the document while expressing her bewilderment:
What is really new in the strategic plan?" she asked Fisher. "I'm
looking at it and everything here. I mean, I agree with everything
that's here. But there wasn't really something that grabbed me as
being really new. Is there anything really new in there that you
would highlight as a marquee component of this new plan?"
Responding, Fisher said: "I'll give you two quick examples: Change-
detection capability and the other one talks about optimizing
capability." By change-detection capability, Fisher explained that it
was referring to the Border Patrol's new high-tech surveillance
operations - both in the air through drones or unmanned aerial
systems, and on the ground by way of the evolving virtual fence project.
In an attempt to explain how these examples related to the "risk-
based, intelligence-driven" attributes of the new strategy, Fisher
added that the new "change-detection capability" of drones allows
Border Patrol "to go out and fly sorties along the border, to confirm
or deny any changes in that threat environment." Elaborating, Fisher
continued, "So that allows us to use technology to be able to
understand where those threats are going to be evolving." He later
notes, "I don't think that we are maximizing to the extent that we
need to all of those capabilities, which is a common theme within our
strategy now."
Following up on Miller's question, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
(D-Texas) said she had "one straightforward question" for Fisher:
"What do you think is the most important element of that strategy?"
Fisher had a one-sentence response: "It's the focus of - there is a
common theme within that strategy that I certainly see as identifying
and developing and training future leaders of this organization."
Missing Performance Measures and Metrics
Since 2010, the Border Patrol has been in a near-desperate search for
metrics that will measure its success in controlling the border.
After the "operational control" schematic for border security was
summarily dropped, DHS promised that it was developing a new, more
inclusive framework for measuring border security to be called the
Border Conditions Index (BCI).
In addition to the usual numerical indicators of apprehensions of
illegal border crossers and seizures of illegal drugs, the promised
performance index would include statistics about public safety in the
borderland, as well as statistics directly related to Border Patrol
operations. Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee
on May 3, 2011, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano noted that the BCI
would "comprehensively measure security along the Southwestern border
and the quality of life in the region."
As described, the BCI would include measures of borderland life such
as property values, unemployment rates and crime statistics.
Introducing nontraditional and more varied performance measures would
likely underscore the DHS's messaging that the border is safer, more
secure and better protected than ever before.
Crime levels, traditionally lower on the border than elsewhere in the
nation, particularly in urban areas, have decreased in the
borderlands despite rising population levels. By supporting its
assertions about its border security achievement, the proposed index
would have allowed the Border Patrol to point to unprecedented levels
of cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement
officers - a product not only of the higher per capita presence of
federal agents, but also of a bounty of border security funding
directed to state and local police and sheriff's deputies. Nowhere
else in the nation is there such a pervasive presence of drug task
The proposed BCI has apparently been dropped. One obvious problem was
that the index would have been almost completely disconnected from
both the security-centered framework of post-9/11 CBP strategies and
the new emphasis on "risk-based strategy, intelligence-driven"
operations. Another probable reason for the disappearance of BCI is
that it would have likely generated criticism by border security
hardliners that the DHS measures of borderland life incorporate less
tangible factors such as the purported rise of fear of spillover
violence and types of crime not included in crime indices, such as
vandalism by illegal border-crossers.
The Border Patrol is facing increasing pressure to set forth new
measures by which its strategic goals and operational objectives can
be evaluated. At the May 8 hearing, titled "Measuring Border
Security," Rep. Miller asked Fisher: "When we hear terms like 'the
border is more secure than ever,' that may be so, but how do you
measure it?" The GAO testimony at the hearing underscored this
concern about the lack of metrics to evaluate Border Patrol spending,
concluding in its statement about border security measures: DHS has
"reduced information provided to Congress and the public about
program results."
Having apparently ditched "border conditions" as a set of metrics to
gauge its border security achievements, the Border Patrol promises to
issue its new performance measures in early 2013. Meanwhile, it has
issued a new strategic plan that doubles down on its 2004 focus on
threats and risks, while also putting new stress on how its risk-
based operations will be intelligence-driven. Presumably, any new set
of performance measures will necessarily provide a verifiable and
quantitative set of indicators of the progress it is making on
identifying risks, assessing threats and targeting these dangers in
the borderlands the agency patrols and protects. Lacking new
performance measures, the Border Patrol has reverted to what it calls
an "interim metric" of border control, namely the number of illegal
border-crossers apprehended by the agency.
In its new strategic plan, the Border Patrol did include a couple of
new initiatives to achieve border security. It is committed to a
"whole-of-government" approach, and to "community engagement." It is
likely that if new performance measures are issued to accompany the
new strategic plan, they will include metrics that point to the
increasing ways that the Border Patrol is working with other
governmental agencies - federal, state, local and tribal - in its
border security operations, and to how it is becoming newly engaged
with border communities themselves.

Fisher told the hearing that the Border Patrol is shifting from
community relations to community engagement, explaining how the
Border Patrol is increasingly reaching out to borderland residents
and leaders as the agency's eyes and ears. The Border Patrol is
training every agent to "recognize that every individual that they
encounter is a potential source of information."

Without careful consideration, this represents a potentially
dangerous new intrusion of the federal government into civil society.
As is, the principal targets of border security programs are
immigrants (few of whom constitute security threats) and the illegal
drug market (virtually all marijuana between points of entry where
Border Patrol operates). Lacking credible risk-based guidelines for
community engagement, the Border Patrol's new determination to, as it
says, "partner" with borderland "stakeholders" will do nothing to
increase homeland security and will instead empower vigilante anti-
immigrant activism and a culture of snitches.

Strategy Without Definition, Focus or Measurable Objectives
"The Strategic Plan sets a firm foundation for the continued
evolution of the Border Patrol as an integral part of CBP's overall
border management and homeland security enterprise," said Aguilar.
The Border Patrol's new plan states that its strategy and operations
will be "risk-based" and "intelligence-driven." Yet, it does not
include a methodology for assessing risks or for leveraging
intelligence to meet identified threats to homeland security. Nor
does the Border Patrol explain - either in the new strategy or
elsewhere - how risk-management will determine the directional focus
and budgetary specifics of border funding.
The 2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan is not a serious document.
The plan includes repeated references to vague tactics such as rapid
response, intelligence, community engagement, whole-of-government
approaches and intergovernmental integration. Full of platitudes,
patriotisms, military jargon and abstractions, the strategy statement
is essentially a public-relations document.
The "firm foundation" that Aguilar sees is manifestly flimsy and
unprofessional. The Strategic Plan has no real plan, no timelines, no
summary of the evolving geopolitical context for border control, no
strategic focus and no baselines or metrics to measure the Border
Patrol's progress in securing the border.

This article is largely excerpted from a new international policy
report, The Border Patrol's Strategic Muddle, published by the Center
for International Policy.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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