U.S. Rep. Ron Barber has been appointed to a leadership role on the Homeland Security Committee and said he will expand his efforts to improve security of the Southwestern border in this new role.
As part of those efforts, the congressman is holding a public meeting today today in Tucson on a study that found the Border Patrol lacks measures for assessing risk and deployment of resources and need and does not have in place goals or a timeline to improve security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, named Barber to serve as the ranking member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management. Barber will partner with the subcommittee’s Chairman, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina.
“As ranking member of the Oversight Subcommittee, I will closely monitor the progress the Border Patrol is making as it addresses shortcomings uncovered in a recent evaluation by the Government Accountability Office,” Barber said today. “The Department of Homeland Security has accepted the GAO recommendations and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the subcommittee to make sure the department and Border Patrol are implementing a strategy that will secure our border and keep our communities safe.”
Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, the Republican who chairs the subcommittee, welcomed Barber to his leadership position. “Transparency, accountability and results are the formula for good government,” Duncan said today. “I’m looking forward to working with Ron to protect the taxpayers and ensure that we’re doing everything possible to keep Americans safe while protecting civil liberties.”
About three weeks ago, Barber released a comprehensive study of Border Patrol strategies and resources conducted by the GAO. The study likely will drive changes in the areas where agents are assigned and the ways in which they operate.
Barber and the GAO evaluators will brief residents of Southern Arizona on the report in a meeting in Tucson today.
Barber joined with Rep. Thompson to ask the GAO to evaluate the security strategy and resource needs of the Border Patrol.
GAO analyzed data from the 2006 to 2011 fiscal years and Border Patrol’s 2012-2016 strategic plan for border security. Evaluators visited each of the Border Patrol stations across the Southwestern border, interviewed Border Patrol personnel, toured the border line and observed resources and infrastructure.
GAO also interviewed ranchers in Barber’s Southern Arizona district and across the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol.
In evaluating how the Border Patrol deploys its agents and other resources, the GAO determined that the Border Patrol does not have in place goals or a way to measure progress.
The study also found that the number of apprehensions decreased across the Southwestern border by 6 percent from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2011. The Department of Homeland Security said that decrease was due to an increase in border security efforts.
The GAO said the decrease also is due to an increase in the number of Border Patrol agents and the addition of National Guard personnel in supporting roles.
Barber had a strong hand in urging the buildup in the number of agents and the assignment of National Guard troops to the border – first as district director and lead on border issues for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and for the past seven months, as a member of Congress.
While apprehensions decreased, drug seizures have increased from 10,321 in fiscal 2006 to 18,898 in fiscal 2011.
The Tucson Sector, which encompasses all of the Arizona border with Mexico except for the Yuma area, includes 13 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border – but accounts for about 38 percent of all drug seizures and 37 percent of all apprehensions across the entire Southwestern border.
DHS has agreed to GAO’s recommendations to improve its 2012-2016 strategic plan for border security. The agency plans to develop metrics to move toward a risk-management approach instead of the current resources-based approach to target resources where they most are needed.
Barber said he will work with DHS to ensure the new strategy is put in place and reflects the needs and challenges of the Tucson Sector.
“It is unacceptable that my constituents still feel unsafe in their homes and in their communities on and near the border,” Barber said. “The Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security must develop smarter strategies and tactics and a better way to measure border security.
“We must work together to shift resources to the Tucson Sector which has continuing heavy illegal trafficking of people and drugs,” Barber added.
This evening, Barber and the GAO evaluators will hold a public meeting on the findings in the GAO report. A Border Patrol official will respond on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security.
WHAT: U.S. Rep. Ron Barber hosts public meeting on GAO report on Border Patrol operations.
WHEN: 5:30 – 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013
WHERE: Pima Community College East Campus, Community Room in the Student Center, 8181 E. Irvington Road, Tucson Map
Constituents interested in attending should RSVP to AZ02.RSVP@mail.house.gov
Media members interested in attending should contact Mark Kimble at firstname.lastname@example.org