The Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Michael McCaul, released a report on Monday of this week entitled “Blueprint for Southern Border Security”, a detailed analysis of the operational challenges that DHS faces on the southern border and a proposed framework for addressing them. Some of the major principles articulated as part of this “blueprint” include:
a) improving situational awareness through use of technology deployments and improved intelligence;
b) improving unity of effort among agencies on the southern border, including those with maritime responsibilities;
c) developing improved outcome-based metrics for border security;
d) increasing penalties as a means of deterring future border crossing attempts;
e) engaging internationally, including with countries in Central America.
Notably and laudably, the report does not call for an increase in the size of the Border Patrol – something that was included in the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013, but as I argued at the time, would be a terrible and costly idea. Instead, the report focuses on providing the current Border Patrol agents with the capabilities that can serve as a force multiplier, enabling them to do their job more efficiently and effectively.
Overall, this is a solid assessment of the current operational situation at the southwest border that includes sensible options for how to improve southern border security. What is needed to complement this is a detailed cost-benefit analysis of these proposals (both as isolated proposals and as a whole) that considers and quantifies where DHS can get the greatest return on its investments in southern border security, and where (by contrast) investments would have little value and/or face diminishing marginal returns.