Different border wall prototypes take shape near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in October 2017. (Mani Albrecht/Customs and Border Protection)

Senate Report: Border Patrol Agents Want Technology, Staff More Than Wall

A report released today by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Democrats said Border Patrol agents want technology and personnel to assist their mission, not a border wall.

The report, “Border Security: Analysis of Vulnerabilities Identified by Frontline Agents,” looks at the data collected annually by CBP from frontline agents and chiefs along each of the Border Patrol sectors along the Southwest border.

It found that less than one-half of 1 percent of the solutions Border Patrol agents and sector chiefs proposed for closing capability gaps along the southwest border in FY 2017 referenced a “wall.” The Border Patrol personnel identified a total of 902 southwest border capability gaps through the CGAP process. The word “wall” was suggested as a possible solution for just three of those gaps.

The report also found that fencing was not frequently suggested, either: Border Patrol agents referenced “fence” or “fencing” as a possible solution to less than 4 percent of the 902 capability gaps identified.

Fourteen southwest border capability gaps received an “urgent and compelling” ranking at both the station and sector level, but only one included a reference to a wall or fencing as one of a variety of possible solutions. Most of the “urgent and compelling” capability gaps were associated with technological or personnel needs, such as insufficient manpower, poor training, or inadequate surveillance equipment.

The Border Patrol classified just one in four vulnerabilities as ones that could be addressed using manmade infrastructure of any type. Almost three-quarters of the gaps were classified as categories of vulnerabilities that typically indicate a need for technological and personnel approaches to securing the border.

“To be sure, there were instances in which Border Patrol agents proposed ‘fencing’ or other tactical infrastructure, such as patrol roads, lighting, and storm drain grates, for addressing current capability gaps,” says the report. “But, more often, technological and personnel solutions, such as sensors, cameras, improved radio communications systems, additional hiring, and better training, were proposed. ”

In addition to analyzing the FY 2017 CGAP data, the Senate report outlines statements from senior CBP and Department of Homeland Security officials about the need to solicit input from Border Patrol agents before deploying additional border security measures.

Ranking Member Claire McGaskill (D-Mo.), who led the report, said it “reinforces what I’ve heard from frontline border agents and CBP leaders alike, that the top priorities for addressing vulnerabilities along our border are additional personnel and better technology.”

“We can’t let politics get in the way of our efforts to strengthen border security and protect our country,” she said.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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