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June 11, 2012

CBP Border Drone Program Suffers from Budget and Planning Shortfalls

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the below statement in response to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) – drones – which are intended to provide reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting, and acquisition capabilities across all CBP areas of responsibility. CBP began using UAS in 2004 and now uses them on both the northern and southern borders in land and maritime environments. The report, entitled "CBP's Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the Nation's Border Security" (OIG-12-85), found that CBP had not adequately planned for resources needed to support the current UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) inventory and that program planning documents are lacking in many respects.

The OIG report found:

  • CBP did not adequately plan to make sure it had enough money for UAS equipment, operations, and maintenance.
  • CBP does not have a formal process for the submission UAS mission requests and is therefore not prioritizing those requests.
  • CBP does not have a reimbursement system in place for missions flown at the request of non-federal stakeholders.
  • The lack of planning documents has led to a risk of investing substantial resources in a program that underutilizes resources and limits the ability to achieve mission goals.
  • CBP has not achieved its scheduled or desired levels of flight hours of its unmanned aircraft.
  • CBP failed to make specific operations and maintenance budget requests for the UAS program which has resulted in a budget shortfall and transfers from other programs.

The OIG recommended that CBP postpone additional UAS purchases until it properly analyzes program requirements and develops effective plans to achieve the UAS mission availability objective and acquires funding to provide necessary operations, maintenance, and equipment.

Ranking Member Thompson released the following statement with the report:

"Unfortunately, this report clearly shows that CBP is not managing its unmanned aircraft program effectively. The agency is spending money without adequate or proper planning, resulting in expensive aircraft spending most of the time idle on the ground. CBP must implement the OIG's recommendations to ensure the UAS program makes most out of taxpayer money and our border security budget. CBP must also institute procedures so that its programs have the proper planning in place."

Link to Report

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Media Contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978