The new Reorg at CBP provides some hope that this largest of all federal law enforcement agencies at last recognizes its crucial problems and intends to resolve them. However, what is always most difficult is to change in an organization of this size because it is the managerial culture which shapes and drives it. Without significant cultural change in the leadership at CBP, positive accomplishments as determined by measurable outcomes are very difficult to obtain.
A case in point. By all accounts SBInet was a miserable failure that cost the taxpayer more than $1 billion. But even more importantly, Border Patrol Agents and Custom Officers to date have been denied state-of-the-art surveillance equipment that would increase their efficiency on the job and, at the same time, reduce their risk. Anyone who does not understand the danger that these men and women face on a daily basis really does not understand the nature of their work.
The documented failure of SBInet has required CBP to try to catch up after years of technology failures along the border. One must hope that the five new contracts awarded by CBP’s Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition to defense contractors will very soon bring the latest in surveillance technology into the capable hands of CBP Agents and Officers.
The responsibility for shepherding these five technologies to fruition rests directly upon the shoulders of Mark Borkowski, CBP’s Assistant Commissioner and Chief Acquisition Executive. The fact, however, that Borkowski supervised the failed SBInet program from 2006 to 2010 does not create much confidence that he will succeed in a timely and productive manner to increase our national security in our borderlands.
In the last week two new earthquakes hit the Cushing, Oklahoma area. Cushing, a small town of about 6,000 residents, is home to one of the largest tank farms in the country. This huge tank farm, which stores more than 50 million barrels of oil, is crucial to American industry because it supplies the entire Gulf of Mexico petro-chemical industry. Not only would our national oil and gas industry be adversely impacted by the disruption of the Cushing hub, but our national security is also at risk.
More than 585 earthquakes occurred in Oklahoma in 2014. These earthquakes, which are increasing in intensity, now threaten our largest oil hub. The direct cause is the practice of the disposal of millions of barrels of contaminated water through induction wells. This water is a bi-product of fracking.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is mandated by law to regulate the oil and gas industries. But unfortunately the OCC lacks the expertise and experience in handling this unprecedented situation. DHS seems disinterested and the EPA, while showing some sympathy to this man-made disaster, has been of little help. The OCC has done its best to try to provide solutions to this human-made disaster, but with limited funds, limited resources, and limited expertise, the Cushing oil hub remains extremely vulnerable.
The new reorg at CBP includes two new departments. Operations Support and Enterprise Services in theory are intended to make CBP more efficient and generally less prone to internal problems. This new reorg is most probably another reaction to the unprecedented scandal emerging from the resignation, then forced retirement, of James Tomsheck in the summer of 2014, and the revelations revealed since then about CBP employees and leadership.
But whether the new reorg actually makes any real difference is to a great degree going to be based upon the quality of the new leadership at CBP. If the leadership culture remains unchanged, then fundamental problems within the agency-including corruption, violence, and graft-will stay the same.
In the meantime, CBP can do much to redeem itself by simply becoming more transparent. It could start, for example, by openly responding to the recent GAO report substantiating Raytheon’s protest that Elbit should not, for several reasons, have received the CBP bid to build a new border surveillance system. According to testimony, Elbit is already behind schedule. No one wants to see another failed SBI-net boondoggle, but Elbit already appears to be duplicating Boeing’s previous errors.
The public deserves better.
As the result of an unprecedented scandal at CBP IA during the summer of 2014, CBP has finally announced a new and major reorganization. Two new offices have been created and two new CBP executive positions have been created to lead these new offices.
CBP appears to still be searching for ways to insure that an in-house agency will never again turn against it. Tomsheck’s special unit at CBP IA, the Integrity Program Division, developed a series of programs while directed by Janine Corrado and Assistant Director Jeffrey Matta, that ran counter to CBP strategic goals and objectives. One result was that hundreds of cases alleging employee abuses languished at the Integrity Program Division and remain in limbo for victims, their families, and the public.
The Integrity Program Division also invented new programs that spied upon their own and other CBP employees. No CBP employees have been held accountable for these and other serious mismanagement issues.
The internal report about the scandal at CBP IA still has not been released.
In recent testimony to Congress, Mr. Mark Borkowski stated that, “…the plan…is admittedly behind schedule…”. The plan he refers to is part of the newest version of SBI called the Southern Border and Approaches Campaign. The plan refers to the attempt to construct surveillance towers along the Arizona border.
Mr. Borkowski is now the assistant commissioner at Customs and Border Protection in the Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition. Before that he was the leader of SBI, the Secure Border Initiative.
If this at all sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because since 1989 the Border Patrol has rolled out a series of programs that promised to control illegal immigration, illegal drugs, and possible terrorists. First there was ICAD, ICAD II, and ICAD III. Then came ISIS, eventually followed by the ASI and finally, in 2006, SBI, SBInet, and its derivatives.
What all of these border surveillance programs have in common is that none of them, not one, worked as promised. Now we have a new program, but the same old leadership under Mr. Borkowksi. Borkowski led SBInet from 2006 until its demise in 2011. SBI cost taxpayers more than $1 billion.
This time around Mr. Borkowski’s explanations for why he is again behind schedule-and why we should ignore a recent GAO report questioning the success to date of the Southern Border and Approaches Campaign-sound very familiar. We’ve heard these excuses many times before.
Two and one-half decades should have been more than enough time for Mr. Borkowski and CBP finally to get it right. Both the public and Congress need to pay close attention or we will again end up spending billions for border surveillance that does not work.
The SAREX program initiated by Mr. James Tomsheck in March 2011, and supervised by Janine Corrado and Jeffrey Matta at the Integrity Program Division, is another example of Customs and Border Patrol Internal Affairs breaking federal law and agency policy in the name of protecting us from alleged criminal behavior by Customs and Border Patrol employees.
SAREX, under the leadership of Mr. James Tomsheck at CBP IA, quickly went out of control, infringing upon the privacy rights of thousands of CBP employees.
As such, SAREX is one more example of Mr. Tomsheck’s poor leadership and data management while he was the senior executive at CBP IA from 2006 to 2104. Mr. Tomsheck apparently felt that his SAREX program was not bound by either federal law or federal policies and procedures.
While our Border Patrol Agents and Customs Officers continue to risk their lives on a daily basis along the Mexican border, something has long been wrong with CBP IA in Washington. While Congress has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into increasing the number of Agents and Officers to more than 45,000 professional men and women-and CBP IA boasts an annual budget of over $600 million a year-something has long been wrong with CBP IA in Washington.
If there are 45,000 Agents and Customs Officers, then there is naturally going to be a real need for CBP IA to identify and adjudicate the small minority of dishonest and corrupt men and women among them. The vast majority of Agents and Officers, however, continue to work their shifts to the best of their abilities and talents. We need a solid and dependable CBP IA.
But exactly what has CBP IA accomplished since Mr. James Tomsheck took over leadership as Assistant Commissioner in 2006?
It is far from a pretty picture. First, there is the case of Lieutenant Commander (retired) John Gregory Richardson. A hard-working CBP IA Senior Analyst who returned from deployment with his Naval unit from East Africa in 2011 with a documented physical disability, Richardson was never provided with the work accommodations he requested so that he could perform his job in a professional manner at CBP IA’s Integrity Programs Division. He was soon forced out of his position by Tomsheck with the help of the IPD Director, Janine Corrado, and Assistant Director, Jeffry Matta.
Then there is the “July Amnesty”, an attempt by Corrado and Matta to rectify 715 cases which included allegations against Agents and Officers. Corrado and Matta order IDP Security Analysts to close all these cases within one month, July, 2011. Some had been languishing in the IPD case data management system for years. Allegations are not convictions, but this sloppy data stewardship and case management at CBP IA cast an unnecessary shadow on all CBP employees striving for integrity and honesty during every shift. There should never have been a need for the “July Amnesty”.
Something has long been wrong with CBP IA in Washington.
The three senior citizens convicted of breaching the Y-12 Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on July 28th, 2012, were fined $52,953 in federal district court this morning in Knoxville, Tennessee. The three, including 83 year old Sister Megan Rice soon to turn 84, were each convicted of two felony charges including sabotage and destruction of federal property in a trial in May, 2013. Sentencing was supposed to be today, but was postponed because the federal court house was closed in Knoxville due to snow. Sentencing has been postponed until February 19th.
The Associated Press reported today in the New York Times that the brother of drug cartel leaders Miguel Angel and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales is headed for a 20 year prison sentence. Jose Trevino Morales was convicted in Texas of investing $16 million of Mexican drug cartel money in legitimate businesses in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Specializing in the horse racing industry, Jose Trevino Morales used drug money in all aspects of the horse racing industry and fixed certain races.
Once again we should be reminded of two aspects of this case which should be emphasized within the context of our failed War on Drugs. The first is that undoubtedly Jose Trevino Morales will be immediately replaced: our strategy of cutting off the heads of criminal organizations continues to prove relatively useless.
And secondly, drug money continues to flow back into this country where it undermines legitimates business and commerce.
Simply put, it’s filled with problems and issues but much better than nothing. This bill is a place to start, where the House, also more than aware that the system is broken, can bring its best ideas to the bill. Comprehensive immigration reform can then presumably go to reconciliation.
Will it happen? And if it doesn’t, what will our President do to provide the leadership to resolve the complex issues surrounding immigration?