IG Report says Drones at the U.S. Border are Expensive and Not Effective

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been operating nine military grade drones (Predator B) to police our southern border with Mexico since 2005. They originally had eleven drones but there have been two crashes since the program’s inception. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is charged with operating the drones for DHS. They would like to expand the program by buying 14 more drones at an additional cost of $443 million dollars.

The problem is that DHS’s Office of the Inspector General has released a new Watchdog Report critical of the first 8 years of this Border Drone Program. The report entitled, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Unmanned Aircraft System Program Does Not Achieve Intended Results or Recognize All Costs of Operations” has pointed out three (3) main problems.

Problem One:
The drones really only operate regularly in the Tucson, AZ Sector and the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the border. The drones have been documented to have been involved in 1.8% of the apprehensions in the Tucson Sector and 0.7% in the Rio Grande Sector.

Problem Two:
CBP has a program goal of 16 hours of air patrol time a day using the drones and the IG reports states that it is really only getting less than 4 hours.

Problem Three:
CBP states that the operating cost of the drones is $2,468 per hour of flight time, the IG report states it is more like $12,000 per hour.

The first couple sentences of the Report states, “Although CBP’s Unmanned Aircraft System program contributes to border security, after 8 years, CBP cannot prove that the program is effective because it has not developed performance measures.” For more detailed information please review the news articles and the IG’s report listed below.

Source of Information:

International Business Times, 1/6/15, Article:
Immigration Reform: Drones At The U.S. Border Are Expensive, Not Proven Effective, Report Says
Foxnews.com, 1/13/15, Article:
Federal report says Border Patrol’s drone program doesn’t fly

DHS’s Office Inspector General, 12/24/14, Watchdog Report:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Unmanned Aircraft System Program Does Not Achieve Intended Results or Recognize All Costs of Operations