by Lee Maril
President Trump’s recent decision to send the National Guard to the Mexican borderlands does not make good sense. The National Guard are trained soldiers, but have little training in guarding an international border, speaking Spanish, immigration law, and all the other skills that CBP agents possess. Furthermore, the cost of sending the National Guard needs to be closely monitored. Border security would improve if we decreased the time it takes to hire our CBP agents rather than send soldiers to the Mexican border.
For more on this topic, see http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20180417-for-border-security-cbp-agents-are-more-suitable-than-national-guard-soldiers .
In 2016 the percentage of female agents remains at 5% although the Border Patrol continues to attempt to recruit additional women. Somehow this process just never seems to work very well, neither the recruiting, the retaining, the mentoring, or promoting of female agents. The first female Border Patrol agents who carried firearms were hired in the late 1960s. Now as we approach fifty years of service to the Border Patrol, it seems beyond belief that female agents still remain a small minority in the Border Patrol, especially when compared to similar federal agencies like the FBI.
In light of recent legal cases involving crimes against female Border Patrol agents by male Border Patrol agents, for example the case of Armando Gonzalez at the Chula Vista Station, I once again suggest the following:
- Treat all agents, regardless of gender, in the same fair and honest ways as determined and defined by existing federal law.
- Expose those agents, supervisors, and managers who discriminate against co-workers based upon gender to the full force of the existing federal law. As federal law enforcement officers, begin to enforce gender laws within your own agency.
- Continue to promote competent, professional women to positions of responsibility not because they are women, but because they are the best persons for the job.
- Take a hard look at the family-unfriendly and hostile work environments that exist for many female agents at certain BP stations and in certain BP sectors.
- Follow the template of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that currently employs definitive methods to recruit, train, and retain female agents. Fully 20% of all FBI agents are women.
For additional thoughts on this same topic, see:
The business side of what Customs and Border Patrol does and does not do is extremely important. While both political parties debate policy, one unaddressed but fundamental question is this: how efficient is CBP in getting new technologies to its officers and agents so they may better accomplish their daily work?
It now appears that CBP has stumbled repeatedly in contract acquisition and management since the failed SBInet program that ran from 2006-2011 at a cost of more than $1.3 billion. Major CBP programs which promise the delivery of surveillance technologies to the Mexican border are mired in acquisition and managerial problems created and maintained by an inadequate bureaucracy.
CBP badly needs competent and experienced personnel. The most recent example is the CBP’s MVSS program, the Mobile Video Surveillance System.
For a more detailed discussion of this topic: http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20160916-cbp-mvss-border-surveillance-system-another-border-program-mired-in-delays
Saturday’s 5.8 earthquake in Oklahoma is a sobering reminder, a cautionary tale, that recent emergency attempts by the Oklahoma legislature, the governor, and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to resolve the problem may have failed.
The OCC provided key leadership in attempting to reduce the number and intensity of earthquakes in the state. According to scientists, these earthquakes are the direct result of injection wells that force wastewater back into the ground after the fracking process. Efforts to resolve this growing problem were initiated last fall and at first the data indicated that a reduction of wastewater in key injection wells was directly tied to what appeared to be a decline in the number and intensity of earthquakes.
Then came the 5.6 quake on Saturday, one of the biggest quakes to ever hit the region. Additional actions to resolve this problem have now been taken by the OCC. The real question is whether or not the earthquakes will subside and the surface damage will remain relatively minimal. No one knows at this point if this human made phenomena will become a disaster. Time will tell, but certainly every reasonable effort must continue to be made to avoid further surface damage.
Just back from my first visit to Israel. I remain stunned by what I saw and those with whom I talked. Stunned is the best word I can think of because I am still trying to disassemble images and assemble words to make some sense of my experiences.
The first night, by way of the congested highway from Tel Aviv, the only comparison of the Jerusalem that came to me long into the early hours was some sort of poorly lit version of San Francisco in the 1950s. The next morning, by the light of day and after a walk through the market in the old city area, San Francisco was quickly replaced by nothing more or less than a possible understanding of perhaps what most cities, in spite of geography, history, and cultures, may look like in the near future because of the threat of increased terrorism.
In truth, I was only able to see the walls the first few days I was there. Very old walls, new walls, walls being constructed to replace less imposing walls, all topped in various fashion by wire or spikes. And guns. Everyone who has served in the army, which is required of all Israeli citizens, either carries a weapon or presumably had placed their weapon in a safe place before venturing into the streets. Only gradually could I focus on the incredible diversity of people jammed into this city, nose to nose, religion to religion, the poor walking on crooked streets lined by the omnipresent fortified walls on the other side of which lived the rich, the powerful, the lucky few.
Is what I saw the only answer to terrorism, perhaps a preview of what American cities may or could become? I have no idea at this point. Maybe in a few weeks my experiences will begin to make sense. In the meantime, I remain nothing more or less than stunned by this ancient city. And, of course, anxious to see, experience, and gradually understand more about Jerusalem along with the rest of Israel and the countries bordering it.
When our military men and women enlist, they promise to uphold certain obligations that are expected of them. These obligations at a personal level are frequently extremely challenging for them to live up to. In return, our military institutions also sign on to a list of obligations that enlistees expect of them. These institutional and societal obligations are not challenging to live up to.
Among our military and societal obligations to our military is the promise to provide medical care to all serving in our behalf. When our military return from foreign deployments, these men and women should receive the best health care that we as a society can provide. Along with that also goes the legal promise their civilian job will still be waiting for them.
What happened to Lieutenant Commander J. Gregory Richardson (retired) should never have occurred. When he returned in 2011 from his fifth tour of duty spanning a military career of three decades, neither were his documented medical issues resolved, nor did his employer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs, accommodate his documented medical issues in the work place.
CBP IA Integrity Programs Division did not provide Richardson the opportunity to continue to serve his country; that is our loss. Neither did it show the slightest bit of compassion to this returning disabled veteran who eventually was forced out of his job as a GS-14 Senior Security Analyst.
Said one of Richardson’s co-workers, “All he needed was an once of compassion.” None of his division supervisors or senior leadership at CBP IA, Mr. James Tomsheck, took the time or the effort to help Richardson. Instead they and their agency for years have hidden behind procedures, policies, and bureaucratic paper shuffling.
Our institutional and societal obligations to those in our military are not challenging to live up to.
Two reasons. First, the frequency and intensity of Oklahoma earthquakes have grown dramatically in the last few years. In both the northwest and the central part of the state these increases are directly tied to the injection wells required for fracking. Increasingly damage to both private and public property is a concern.
Second, the frequency and intensity of Oklahoma earthquakes is occurring closer and closer to the Cushing hub. This pipeline node and tank farm on any one day stores more than 50 million barrels of oil. Any damage to the Cushing hub infrastructure could severely impact the petro-chemical plants and refineries that are concentrated along the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to Alabama. As such, Oklahoma earthquakes are potentially man-made disasters that could have a negative impact on our national security because they potentially threaten our oil-based economy.
In my opinion the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is taking a first step, unprecedented in this state, to attempt to limit earthquakes caused by a by-product of the fracking process. It still remains to be seen, however, whether their efforts will succeed.
For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20160524-update-on-earthquakes-newest-results-from-oklahoma-commission-look-encouraging
What difference does it make if SBInet cost $1 billion, or $1.2 billion, or the real amount, $1.389 billion?
First and foremost, American taxpayers paid the SBInet contracts to Boeing. There is a big difference, exactly $389 million, between the first number listed above and the last.
For example, imagine what cities like Flint, Michigan could do to fix their lead problem in the water, or the salaries that elected officials in Ferguson, Missouri could offer its police officers so they could hire the best trained personnel available. Imagine the impact on public education in troubled school systems in Chicago, Baltimore, and other major cities. There are, in fact, endless ways that $389 million could be used to improve the lives of Americans.
The public has a right to know how its money is spent. Simple as that.
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.