Our farblondzhet senators

one recent report, “said the border plan ‘reads like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton’.” 

Most Americans did not have in mind a border security surge in spending, government largesse that may now go to corporate technological wizardry with a history of unimaginable failures. There is a very long line of border security boondoggles stretching so far back — whole three years — that most senators must surely suffer from short-term memory loss. Boeing’s inept “virtual wall” at a cost of more than $1 billion is but one recent case in point, as is Raytheon’s failed spectroscopic portal at more than $200 million.

The list is in fact much, much longer, including a variety of big ticket software programs and touted integrated intelligence systems with pie-in-the-sky promises under the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System (ISIS) in 1998, including ICAD’s I, II, and III, then ASI, SBI, SBI-Net, SBI-TI, and so on.

The devil is always in the details, and the major security proposals set forth by the Senate require closer scrutiny. That, of course, is always difficult to accomplish but especially true in the case the Border Patrol. A group of journalists recently gave the first annual Golden Padlock award to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for “…recognizing a U.S. government agency or individual for unrelenting commitment to undermining the public’s right to know.”

It’s hard to believe border security can only be improved by big-ticket technology when the CBP still has not replaced its Vietnam-era sensors. Is it really CBP leadership that is requesting the $3.2 billion for drones, radar, sensors, and planes, among other items, or is it the usual suspects like General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, etc.? And if CBP already has suffered internally from the organizational disease of growing too fast and too furious from 3,500 to 22,000 agents, how will it function efficiently if, as the Senate bill proposes, it jumps to 40,000 agents over the next decade? 

According to agents in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the hottest Border Patrol sector along the Mexican border, the sector is seeing a rise in apprehensions of illegal aliens against the background of huge drug interdictions of cocaine and marijuana. It is the sequestration that is hampering agents. Agents, according to a recent AP article, “…are patrolling on foot and doubling up in vehicles” due to lack of funds from Congress.

Actually maybe all our Senators are not really farblondzhet. Clearly, while lost in the wilderness of their own three-decade stampede to immigration reform, they were rescued. The rescuers? The same small group of internationally based defense contractors who always seem to find a way to grab taxpayer money and leave the accountability to Congress.

Robert Lee Maril, a professor of Sociology at East Carolina University, is the author o f The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.-Mexico Border. He blogs at leemaril.com