74.2 F
Washington D.C.
Thursday, September 21, 2023

CBP Could Better Plan for Southwest Border Facility Requirements, OIG Says

OIG has attributed the shortcomings to CBP prioritizing short-term response over long-term planning and the lack of a comprehensive policy that incorporates planning for both temporary and permanent facilities. 

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) says U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may be spending money on facilities that are not cost effective and may not be well prepared for future migrant surges. 

Since 2019, CBP has improved its response to migrant surges by deploying temporary facilities to increase its capacity to humanely process migrants along the Southwest border (SWB). However, an OIG audit has found that CBP did not always document its planning decisions for both temporary and permanent facilities. Additionally, OIG determined that CBP did not consider alternatives before issuing contracts for temporary facilities.

According to CBP, in FY 2022 it spent $314 million on temporary soft-sided facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and Yuma sectors. In March 2021, CBP awarded a contract for a new temporary soft-sided facility in Yuma, but OIG found that CBP did not consider alternative solutions before issuing this contract. “CBP’s documentation to justify this new temporary soft-sided facility did not include an examination of alternative solutions or a cost assessment,” OIG’s report states. “The documentation also described CBP’s plans for supporting the new temporary soft-sided facility, which indicates that CBP already planned to move forward with the temporary facility without ensuring a complete analysis of alternatives.” 

OIG also found that CBP did not document whether it continually reassessed the need for existing temporary facilities, including the cost effectiveness of keeping those facilities. In September 2022, the Rio Grande Valley sector recommended that a temporary soft-sided facility on Donna be closed due to the unsustainably high cost and a drastic reduction in encounters. However, CBP leadership opted to keep the empty temporary facility on site and place it in a hold status. During a November 2022 interview, CBP officials confirmed they did not know or have a timeline for how long the temporary facility would remain on hold. However, CBP reopened the facility at the end of December 2022. CBP paid $4.2 million to maintain the facility during the three months it was on hold. OIG determined that CBP’s decision to continue to pay for the facility when it was not in use was not supported by migration data. 

OIG has attributed the shortcomings to CBP prioritizing short-term response over long-term planning and the lack of a comprehensive policy that incorporates planning for both temporary and permanent facilities. 

CBP is in the process of finalizing its Integrated SWB Mass Irregular Migration Contingency Plan, which the agency says will address the issues raised by OIG. The plan is expected to be complete by the end of March 2024.

OIG is also recommending that CBP establish a comprehensive, formal policy to consistently document the use of all available information to make informed facility planning decisions; conduct and document analysis of all possible alternative options before establishing temporary facilities; and regularly reassess the continued need for existing temporary facilities and evaluate the cost-effectiveness of maintaining existing temporary facilities. CBP agreed with this recommendation and said it is committed to reducing the component’s reliance on temporary soft-sided facilities and is planning and constructing permanent processing facilities as part of this transition. To support this effort, CBP plans to evaluate current processes to identify areas of improvement and will document, via policy, how temporary facility planning decisions will be made. The resulting policy will standardize documentation requirements, formalize a repository for documentation, establish guidelines for alternatives analysis, and document procedures to regularly reassess the continued need for temporary facilities. CBP expects to complete this effort by September 30, 2024.

Read the full report at OIG

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

Related Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles