Rep. McCaul rolls out guidelines for border security and urges DHS metrics

Thu, 2013-02-14 08:00 AM By: Mark Rockwell

Border fence

Border security, said the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, can be obtained in three years, if DHS follows his set of guidelines.

Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) issued the guidelines in a full committee hearing on Feb. 13 concerning threats to the homeland.

The issue of border security has been tied to paths to legal immigration for undocumented aliens in current discussions over immigration reform. Some Republicans have said the border remains porous, while DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano maintains the region is historically secure.

In opening remarks at the hearing, McCaul said he wants to compel DHS to prove that security. “I have developed a framework for legislation to compel the Department, and its components, to create and implement a strategy to control our borders that includes measurable progress, and I am working with outside groups and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to be sure the strategy is workable and has the support it needs.”

McCaul said if the plan is fully implemented, “the ability exists to gain effective control of our borders within three years.” He added that the strategy must meet three key criteria: ascertain situational awareness of the border; create metrics to measure progress based on outcomes; and integrate overlapping or contradicting DHS.

Any legislation aimed at securing the border, he said, should operate under four guiding principles -- which he dubbed “SAFE” -- gain Situational Awareness using advanced technologies, to Formulate useable metrics, while Eliminating agency overlap. McCaul’s guiding principles include:

  • Situational Awareness: In order to allocate resources appropriately, we must have situational awareness – an overall idea of what must go where. We cannot continue to throw scarce resources at isolated problems, only to see them shift. DHS must present to Congress a long-term analysis of where the U.S. is vulnerable based off of a holistic picture of our borders.
  • Advanced Technologies: The administration must work to incorporate existing technology such as Department of Defense Sensor Surveillance equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to gain comprehensive visibility of the border landscape. Using proven, effective technologies to enhance our border security efforts will save taxpayer dollars and make our citizens safer.
  • Formulate Metrics: In 2010, Secretary Napolitano stopped using the metric of “operational control.” At that time, DHS claimed to have only 44 percent of the border under operational control. We can no longer base our security based solely on only apprehensions, without knowing the total number of individuals who cross undetected. Nor can we base success on the number of resources allocated to different sectors or components. Gaining situational awareness will allow DHS to create a new metric to define progress – based off of the number of apprehensions relative to the total number of illegal crossings. Only when we have the full picture can we gauge our own progress, and we must base progress on outcomes, instead of resources.
  • Eliminate Overlap: The Department of Homeland Security must present to Congress its plan to better integrate its agencies to combat all of the threats we face on our borders. DHS’s subordinate components should not unnecessarily duplicate each other’s efforts – they should instead work in complementary fashion to ensure our national security.