Secure Border Initiative Fiscal Year 2008 Expenditure Plan Shows Improvement, but Deficiencies Limit Congressional Oversight and DHS Accountability

GAO-08-739R Published: Jun 26, 2008. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 2008.
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In November 2005, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the launch of Secure Border Initiative (SBI), a multiyear, multibillion-dollar program aimed at securing U.S. borders and reducing illegal immigration. Elements of SBI are carried out by several organizations within DHS. One component is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) SBI program office, which is responsible for developing a comprehensive border protection system using people; technology, known as SBInet; and tactical infrastructure (TI)--pedestrian and vehicle fencing; roads; and lighting. Initially, the focus of SBI is on the U.S. southwest border areas, between the ports of entry, that CBP has designated as most in need of enhanced border security because of serious vulnerabilities. In September 2006, CBP awarded a prime contract to the Boeing Company for 3 years, with three additional 1-year options. As the prime contractor, Boeing is responsible for acquiring, deploying, and sustaining selected SBInet technology and tactical infrastructure projects, and for providing supply chain management for selected tactical infrastructure projects. For fiscal years 2005 through 2008, Congress appropriated more than $2.7 billion for the SBI program. For fiscal year 2009, the President's budget includes a request for an additional $775 million for SBI. The Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act required DHS to submit to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees an expenditure plan for the department's efforts to establish a security barrier along the borders of the United States, including pedestrian and vehicle fencing as well as other forms of tactical infrastructure and technology. This plan was to address 15 legislative conditions and was submitted to Congress on March 31, 2008. As required by the act, we reviewed the plan and on April 7 and April 10, 2008, briefed staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees, respectively, on our results.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
United States Customs and Border Protection The U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Secure Border Initiative Executive Director should ensure that future expenditure plans include an explicit description of how activities will further the objectives of SBI, as defined in the DHS Secure Border Strategic Plan, and how the plan allocates funding to the highest priority border security needs to provide Congress with information it needs to oversee the program.
Closed – Implemented
The fiscal year 2009 Secure Border Initiative (SBI) expenditure plan addressed GAO's June 2008 recommendation. GAO's review of the fiscal year 2009 SBI expenditure plan (see GAO-09-274R) found that the plan: (1) Described how projects align with and contribute directly to the achievement of the goal in the DHS Secure Border Strategic Plan "to develop and deploy the optimal mix of personnel, infrastructure, technology, and response capabilities to identify, classify, and interdict cross-border violators;" (2)Provided a description of how SBI allocates funding to those areas it deems to be of highest priority through the CBP Resource Allocation Plan, which is used to form the President's budget request to Congress; and (3) Described how the U.S. Border Patrol's planning and operational requirements process informs the allocation of funds for the deployment of the highest-priority SBInet technology and SBI TI activities.

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