Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Air Operations (ICE Air) could have saved more than $40 million by not operating charter flights with empty seats if had determined optimum flight capacity, according the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Inspector General (IG) in the 32-page audit report, ICE Air Transportation of Detainees Could be More Effective.
ICE Air is responsible for moving and removing detainees in ICE custody by providing air transportation services to ERO’s 24 field offices.
“Although ICE Air met its mission by transporting 930,435 detainees over a 3-1/2 year period, it could have used its resources more effectively,” the IG determined. “In fact, ICE Air may have missed opportunities to improve the program’s overall effectiveness even though it has identified some ways to reduce costs associated with detainee transportation.”
The IG’s audit investigated whether ICE Air was ensuring the most effective use of its resources.
The IG said its audit found “ICE Air pays, on average, $8,419 per flight hour for charter flights regardless of the number of passengers on the plane. In addition, ICE Air does not capture complete and accurate data essential to support operational decisions and ensure program effectiveness. This occurred because ERO did not provide the planning, management and reporting tools needed to operate effectively, and it does not have a mechanism in place to obtain feedback on how well its processes are performing.”
In addition, “ERO management has no developed a data management plan, assessed staffing and training needs, or implemented formal policies and procedures. It also has not conducted a comprehensive analysis of current operations for making informed business decisions that will safeguard the program’s resources.”
Furthermore, the IG said, ICE Air’s charter operations did not have sufficient trained personnel and current employees lack the proper guidance to ensure successful daily operations.”
“As a result” of the problems the IG found in its audit, the audit report concluded that, “As a result, ICE Air operated charter flights with empty seats and could have realized cost savings of up to $41.1 million upon determining optimum flight capacity. This estimate is based on the average of charter costs incurred during the scope period for the missions analyzed. Although the estimated potential cost savings will not be claimed as funds put to better use, it is an indicator of ICE Air’s potential for future cost savings.”
Inspector General John Roth, stated, “ICE officials must ensure that management and staff use their program’s resources effectively. ICE has started taking action to implement our recommendations, which, once implemented, should provide improvements to the program and assurances that taxpayer funds are being spent efficiently.”
Roth’s office recommended that ICE ERO develop formal policies and procedures for its air transportation program, and should also ensure adequate staffing, complete and reliable data, and perform an analysis of operations to identify factors affecting efficiency.
ICE concurred with all of the IG’s recommendations and said it has begun taking actions for implementation.