The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has faulted Customs and Border Protection for failing to properly oversee work on the Secure Border Initiative.
From the “start of the program, neither CBP, nor the Department of Homeland Security as a whole had enough program managers and acquisition specialists to plan and manage such a large-scale, complex program,” said Richard Skinner, DHS inspector general in a June report, “Better Oversight Needed of Support Services Contractors in Secure Border Initiative Programs.”
The SBI program in 2005 set out to gain operational control by 2010 of the Southwest border by boosting manpower, building infrastructure such as fences and roads and deploying technology where needed. Boeing Co. has been the recipient of the more than $1.1 billion spent on the initiative through Feb. 2008.
Federal acquisition regulations prohibit contractors from performing “inherently governmental functions.” Because the program was ramped up so quickly in 2005,CBP failed to clearly distinguish the roles and responsibilities of contractors and government workers, the report said. One purpose of the regulation is to ensure that key decisions are made by government employees, not members of the private sector.
The report had a litany of tasks performed by contractors that the office found “approached” violating the regulation including: planning and updating SBI program management task orders and helping to prepare initial drafts of statements of work and acquisition plans for the command, control, communications and intelligence designs.
In one flagrant alleged violation, the “largest support contractor” drafted testimony that Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar and then SBInet Executive Director Gregory Giddens presented to Congress in May and June 2007.
Boeing spokesperson Jenna McMullin said company personnel did not draft the statements and that the company’s role on the project was not defined as a “support contractor.”
“With continued heavy reliance on contractor support services, CBP risks losing control of program decisions while remaining accountable for mission results,” Skinner warned.
CBP in a written response to the report said since the inspector general gathered the information, significant progress had been made in identifying governmental and non-governmental tasks.