GAO: Air support on the border could be apportioned better
Requests for federal law enforcement air support along the border were not met at high percentages in some high-priority areas, according to a March 30 report (.pdf) from the Government Accounability Office.
Customs and Border Protection's Office of Air and Marine, which deploys the largest law enforcement air force in the world, performs missions to support other Homeland Security Department components as well as federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
The GAO report criticizes OAM because in fiscal 2010, in the nine Border Patrol areas along the southwest border, OAM exceeded the overall southwestern average of request-response rates in areas of relatively low priority. Two non-priority areas managed to achieve rates of 95 percent, well above the mean rate of 80 percent.
And although OAM responded to high-priority areas with rates that were more than the regionwide mean, one area where only 58 percent of requests were met had a relatively high volume of requests, dragging the average down.
OAM officials told auditors the main reason for unmet air support requests was maintenance. To address that issue, OAM has developed an aircraft modernization plan, GAO notes.
The report suggests that OAM reassess the mix and placement of its assets and personnel to ensure that it effectively allocates scarce resources.
Additionally, GAO says the OAM lacked documentation to justify deployment decisions, even though its fiscal 2010 deployment plan stated that it deployed assets according to field commanders' needs and emerging threats.
Such documentation could demonstrate the effectiveness of OAM's decisions, the report says.
The report is a public version of a sensitive GAO report from February, and it does not specify the locations of the border region areas beyond their general region--southwest, southeast or northern.
- download the report, GAO-12-518 (.pdf)