Border Infrastructure:

Actions Needed to Improve Information on Facilities and Capital Planning at Land Border Crossings

GAO-19-534: Published: Jul 11, 2019. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 2019.

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(202) 512-8777
gamblerr@gao.gov

 

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilitates trade and travel at the nation’s 167 land border crossings. CBP and the General Services Administration own or lease these facilities. Many were built over 70 years ago and struggle to keep up with the usage demanded of them.

We found that CBP doesn't have complete information on infrastructure conditions at these crossings. For instance, it only assessed 4 of its 40 crossings between 2016 and 2018. Additionally, both agencies assess conditions at GSA-owned land border crossings but don't consistently share or use each other’s information.

We recommended that CBP and GSA address these issues.

The CBP Passenger Vehicle Inspection Facility at the Tornillo-Guadalupe land border crossing in Texas includes license plate readers that help process inbound vehicles.

Photo of the border facility.

Photo of the border facility.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Rebecca Gambler
(202) 512-8777
gamblerr@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported infrastructure constraints at land border crossings including limited inspection capacity, technology challenges, and security limitations. However, CBP does not have complete information on infrastructure conditions at all land border crossings. Specifically, CBP assessed facility conditions at four of the 40 land border crossings it owns from 2016 through 2018. Further, CBP has not developed a plan to ensure it conducts such assessments, consistent with DHS policy which calls for them every three years. Developing and implementing a plan to ensure CBP executes its facility condition assessment program would enable CBP to collect more complete and current infrastructure information. In addition, while CBP and the General Services Administration (GSA) both assess facility conditions at 101 GSA-owned land border crossings, they do not consistently share or use each other's information. Doing so could enable CBP and GSA to improve the accuracy and completeness of their respective assessments.

Convent Street Land Border Crossing in Laredo, Texas

HL_5 - 102665

CBP prioritizes land border crossing capital projects in a five-year plan, which by statute is to be submitted with DHS's annual budget request to Congress. In fiscal years 2014 through 2018, CBP submitted two plans on time, submitted two plans more than 100 days after submission of the budget request, and did not submit a plan in one year due to delays in the plan's review and approval process. By establishing timeframes for the review process, CBP would be better positioned to identify and address sources of delay in the review process, and improve its ability to meet statutory reporting requirements by including its five-year plan with its annual budget submission to Congress.

The 10 completed or ongoing GSA land border crossing capital projects in fiscal years 2014 through 2018 generally experienced schedule growth ranging from 0 to 59 percent, but stayed within a 10 percent cost contingency allowance. Circumstances contributing to increased project costs or schedule growth include funding lags between project design and construction, and CBP-requested changes during construction to meet evolving mission needs, according to GSA and CBP officials.

Why GAO Did This Study

CBP and GSA own, lease, or manage all of the nation's 167 land border crossings. CBP facilitates trade and travel at these crossings and has identified significant capital investment needs at these facilities.

GAO was asked to review land border crossing infrastructure. This report examines (1) infrastructure constraints CBP faces and the extent CBP and GSA have information on infrastructure condition, (2) the extent CBP prioritizes capital projects and (3) the extent recent GSA capital projects met cost, schedule, and scope goals and challenges CBP and GSA reported.

GAO analyzed land border crossing data and documentation, including CBP and GSA facility assessments, CBP capital investment plans for fiscal years 2014 through 2018, and data for GSA capital infrastructure projects active during those years. GAO also interviewed officials from CBP field offices that oversee all crossings about infrastructure constraints and visited 16 crossings selected based on high traffic volume and border crossings CBP has prioritized for infrastructure improvement.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making seven recommendations, including that CBP develop a plan to ensure it conducts facility condition assessments consistent with DHS policy; that CBP and GSA share and use each other's information on facility conditions at land border crossings; and that CBP establish review timeframes for its capital investment plan.

For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: CBP concurred with the recommendation and, in March 2020, provided a plan for conducting FCAs at some, but not all, CBP-owned land border crossings. According to officials, CBP will update this plan to include all CBP-owned land border crossings and may coordinate with the DHS Office of the Chief Readiness Support Officer to ensure the plan is consistent with DHS Directive 119-02-004. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should complete the FCA plan to include all CBP-owned land border crossings.

    Recommendation: The CBP Commissioner, in conjunction with the DHS Office of the Chief Readiness Support Officer, should develop and implement a plan to ensure that CBP executes its Facility Condition Assessments (FCA) program by conducting FCAs at each CBP-owned land border crossing consistent with DHS Directive 119-02-004. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: CBP concurred with the recommendation and, in February 2020, GSA confirmed that it received FCA reports from CBP for GSA-owned land border crossings. GSA also confirmed that it provided CBP with a spreadsheet containing data from GSA Building Assessment Tools. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should demonstrate that it is using GSA Building Assessment Tool information to inform its FCAs at GSA-owned land border crossings.

    Recommendation: The CBP Commissioner should share FCA reports with GSA and use facility condition information in GSA's Building Assessment Tool to inform FCAs. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: GSA concurred with the recommendation and, in April 2020, provided documentation that it received CBP FCAs and provided Building Assessment Tool information to CBP. GSA further provided updated guidance describing how it will share this information with CBP going forward. To fully address this recommendation, GSA should demonstrate that it using CBP FCA reports to inform its Building Assessment Tool assessments.

    Recommendation: The GSA Administrator should share Building Assessment Tool reports with CBP and use facility condition information in CBP's FCAs to inform its assessments through the Building Assessment Tool. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: GSA concurred with the recommendation and, in December 2019, stated that it would share this information with CBP on a monthly basis until it is available to CBP for self-service on a shared data system. To fully address this recommendation, GSA should provide documentation that CBP has access to the shared data system.

    Recommendation: The GSA Administrator, in conjunction with CBP, should share with CBP information on GSA maintenance and repair work at GSA-owned land border crossings at the level of detail necessary to inform CBP's data in TRIRIGA. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: CBP concurred with the recommendation and, in December 2019, reported that it began documenting processes for validating and correcting existing records in TRIRIGA using information on maintenance and repair work conducted by GSA. In addition, CBP reported that it is developing a standard operating procedure for TRIRIGA data entry. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should demonstrate that it is regularly receiving information on maintenance and repair work performed by GSA and that it is using this information to update data in TRIRIGA.

    Recommendation: The CBP Commissioner should use information on maintenance and repair work conducted by GSA at GSA-owned land border crossings to update facility condition information in TRIRIGA on an ongoing basis. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: CBP concurred with the recommendation and, in April 2020, provided a document establishing time frames for stakeholders involved in the five-year plan review and approval process. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should demonstrate that it has communicated these time frame expectations to stakeholders.

    Recommendation: The CBP Commissioner should establish review time frames for stakeholders involved in its Five-year Capital Investment Plan review and approval process. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: CBP concurred with the recommendation and, in April 2020, provided a document that formally establishes and documents a methodology for its land border crossing prioritization process, including procedures and time frames for each step. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should demonstrate that it is implementing this methodology during its annual five-year capital investment planning process.

    Recommendation: The CBP Commissioner should establish and document a methodology for its annual land border crossing capital prioritization process that includes procedures and time frames for each step. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection

 

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