The Office of Inspector General (OIG) says Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) did not accurately measure and publicly report its progress in disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal organizations (TCO) from fiscal years 2017 through 2022. As a result, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Congress, and the public do not know how many TCOs HSI disrupted or dismantled during this time period.
HSI established the Significant Case Reports (SCR) process in 2010 to identify the most critical investigations, measure and report its progress in disrupting or dismantling criminal organizations, and justify requests for additional resources to Congress.
OIG reviewed a sample of 422 approved SCR and determined that 253 (60 percent) did not describe an entity that aligned with HSI’s definition of a TCO. Further, the audit found that HSI included 171 of these non–TCO-related SCRs in its public reporting of TCO disruptions and dismantlements.
OIG said the failures occurred because HSI officials relied on SCR approval data, which did not distinguish between TCO-related and non– TCO-related SCRs. For HSI officials to approve an SCR, the SCR must meet the established criteria for the assigned category and subcategory. However, some categories and subcategories do not require that the SCR involve an entity that meets the definition of a TCO. For example, multiple subcategories related to crimes against children did not require an association of individuals operating across international borders.
Additionally, OIG reviewed all resource requests that program offices submitted to HSI Office of Administrative Operations from FY 2017 through FY 2022. The watchdog found that HSI program officials did not use SCR data in 125 of the 128 (98 percent) resource requests submitted during this period. This occurred, OIG said, because ICE and HSI’s annual resource request guidance did not require HSI to consider SCR data.
As a result of the audit, OIG has made three recommendations to HSI:
- Require special agents to identify in the Investigative Case Management (ICM) system whether each SCR submission involves an entity that meets HSI’s definition of a transnational criminal organization.
- Implement data validation processes to ensure accurate reporting of disruptions and dismantlements of transnational criminal organizations.
- Develop and implement guidance for program offices to require the use of SCR data, where applicable, in their annual resource requests to Congress.
ICE concurred with each recommendation and said HSI has updated its ICM system with a new “TCO involvement” yes/no checkbox that is mandatory when users create SCRs. ICE will develop associated instructions, training, and updated memorandums during FY 2024. In addition, ICE told OIG that HSI will be implementing data validation processes for SCRs in ICM beginning in the first quarter of FY 2024. ICE also said that in future, when reviewing budget request proposals, HSI budget analysts will recommend program offices use SCR data.
This is OIG’s second report in as many months that examines the Department of Homeland Security’s TCO activities. In August, the watchdog reported that inspectors found officers at many locations were not conducting outbound inspections or making seizures, resulting in missed opportunities to stop currency, firearms, explosives, ammunition, and narcotics from reaching transnational criminal organizations that perpetrate cross-border violence.