It is apparent from reading the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) section under Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) performance plans from fiscal years 2011 and 2012 that these evaluation reports are consecutive and comparable but not closely tied to each other. The disparate nature of the reports is indicated by the fact that there is no indication of progression or regression of identified issues from one year to the next. Issues are addressed in 2012 that are not evident in 2011, issues addressed in 2011 that require follow-up disappear from the 2012 report, and several issues are copied directly from 2011 into the 2012 report with nothing added or subtracted. Valid living document performance plans would normally posit a problem for improvement and then follow-up with actions taken, a status of progress accomplished, or a run-down of the further deterioration of the identified issues. A direct comparison of both reports reveals that the following sections are word for word identical between in both reports: “Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT),” “CBP’s Management of Its Federal Employees’ Compensation Act Program,” the “Efficacy of CBP’s Penalties Process, and the “Free and Secure Trade Program – Continued Driver Eligibility” program. Thus, one can propose that these reports are misleading from the perspective that they are not consistent with the classic definition of performance evaluations or improvement planning. These reports are basically a listing of performance oversight issues that DHS OIG has identified in a given year that merit inclusion in this top level annual report.
Program areas of concern included in the CBP section of the DHS OIG reports are particularly interesting because they address specific programs within the entire CBP domain and do not represent broad stroke responsibilities such as southwest border security or international airline cargo security. It is disappointing from a citizen’s point of view to read that there are a number of safety issues evident in the CBP northern border drone surveillance program as revealed in the 2011 report. It is even more disappointing from a homeland security employee perspective to find that there is no indication in the 2012 report as to whether or not the problems were improved upon or even solved. Since no entry concerning this issue is made in the 2012 report readers are left to wonder whether or not drone surveillance safety is still an issue or whether or not it will regain prominence in the future due to unaddressed problems with the program. Another interesting mention in the 2011 report is the circumstances surrounding a no-bid contract awarded in relation to continuing border security infrastructure upgrades. DHS OIG addresses this and other identified issues using an indirect approach. In this and other cases, DHS OIG is primarily concerned with the oversight of CBP internal controls and investigative mechanisms. The objective of DHS OIG in relation to identified issues within CBP is to evaluate CBP self-governance and its ability to identify and solve internal affairs and other issues that degrade the quality of CBP programs. DHS is not intent on conducting CBP internal investigations. Its goals center on monitoring identified issues within CBP and how CBP addresses these particular problem areas. DHS OIG uses specifically identified problem areas in order to assist in the benchmarking and evaluation of these CBP internal oversight mechanisms.
Along with functioning as an overarching reporting mechanism in regard to CBP ability to identify and address important issues, the DHS OIG annual performance plans also highlight new initiatives normally born from the necessity of addressing long-standing or emergent agency program concerns. The fiscal year 2012 report CBP section begins with the title “New Projects” and discusses “CBP Use of Radiation Portal Monitors at Seaports” under the guise that this program was identified as a mandatory priority issue. This issue was not even indirectly indicated in the 2011 report. An examination of the defined objective under this new program reveals that DHS OIG is additionally intent on monitoring the progress of CBP programs that it prioritizes as important to the CBP mission and ultimately to the success of American homeland security. Will enhancements to CBP radiation screening at seaports improve this particular facet of national security? The answer to this question might be found during independent research. However, unless the format of the DHS OIG annual performance plans change, the status of this and other concerns will not be found in future reports.
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