U.S. Senate Report: Border Patrol Agents and Leaders Prioritize Technology, Personnel—Not a Wall—to Strengthen Border Security According to Internal Agency Documents

WASHINGTON – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Minority, led by Ranking Member Claire McCaskill, today issued a staff report analyzing data Customs and Border Protection (CBP) collected from frontline Border Patrol agents and sector chiefs on the greatest vulnerabilities along the southwest border, and recommendations to address them. While the Administration continues to push for border wall funding—citing the needs of Border Patrol agents on the ground—the report finds that additional personnel and technology are the top border security needs identified by agents, and that agents rarely suggested fencing or walls as solutions to specific problems they encountered along the border.

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

READ THE REPORT: Border Security: Analysis of Vulnerabilities Identified by Frontline Agents 

The report analyzes data that CBP collected from frontline Border Patrol agents and sector chiefs through the FY 2017 Capability Gap Analysis Process (CGAP), a tool CBP uses each year to identify vulnerabilities along the border and suggest possible solutions to address those vulnerabilities. CBP is required to obtain this data before it approves, funds, or implements border security measures. Key findings from the Senate report include:

  • Border Patrol agents and sector chiefs rarely requested a “wall.” 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 identified a total of 902 southwest border capability gaps through its FY 2017 CGAP process. The word “wall” was suggested as a possible solution for just three of those gaps, and Border Patrol agents referenced “fence” or “fencing” as a possible solution to just 34, or less than 4 percent, of the 902 capability gaps identified.
  • Only one “Urgent and Compelling” request mentioned either a wall or fencing. Fourteen southwest border capability gaps received an “Urgent and Compelling” ranking at both the station and sector level; only one included a reference to a wall or fencing as one of a variety of possible solutions. In most instances, the Urgent and Compelling capability gaps that Border Patrol identified were associated with a lack of technology or personnel. 
  • The Border Patrol classified just one in four vulnerabilities as ones that could be addressed using man-made infrastructure of any type. Of the 902 capability gaps agents and sector chiefs identified along the southwest border in FY 2017, just 230 received a “Deterrence, Impedance, and Resolution” designation. The most commonly identified gaps Border Patrol agents and sector chiefs identified along the southwest border in FY 2017 were associated with “Domain Awareness” and “Mission Readiness”—indicating a need for technological and personnel approaches to securing the border. 

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. For instance, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stated during her confirmation hearing, “I look forward, should I be confirmed, to working with the folks at CBP, understanding their operational needs on the border.” However, as the report details, “Despite [CBP and Department of Homeland Security] statements and despite the capability gaps Border Patrol agents themselves identified through the annual CGAP process, the Trump Administration has requested funding for a wall along the southwest border in amounts that far exceed requests for border security technology and personnel.” The report continues, “With finite resources, federal funding for border security must be allocated in the most effective and efficient manner possible.”

Democratic staff of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee previously issued reports revealing internal disagreements over technology, personnel, and border wall funding priorities as the Administration prepared its FY 2019 budget proposal. The reports showed that the White House recommended cuts to Department of Homeland Security priorities—including critical technology funding—to pay for the border wall. Committee Minority staff also issued a report detailing the Administration’s lack of information on costs or timeline for land seizure necessary for a proposed border wall and illustrating previous challenges to federal land acquisition efforts.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Democratic staff report is available online HERE.