The Department of Homeland Security reached out to the Pentagon more than 30 times since April 2018 for assistance with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s mission along the southwest border.
The Department of Defense used rough cost estimates while assessing the requests for assistance that weren’t reliable and didn’t fully evaluate the effects on military readiness, according to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
“Without reliable cost estimates and a timely readiness analysis, [the Department of Defense] is limited in its ability to evaluate the effect on supporting DHS on its budget and readiness rebuilding efforts,” the report stated.
The GAO analysts said both agencies employed several key collaboration practices for the Pentagon’s support along the southwest border but have not agreed on a common outcome for the DOD assistance in fiscal year 2021 and beyond.
Both agencies also seem to have different ideas about what the future holds as far as military assistance. The GAO researchers found that DHS wants to keep the current level of Defense Department support for the next three to five years.
“This differs from DoD’s desired outcome, which is to provide temporary assistance until DHS can independently execute its border security mission,” according to the report.
The Pentagon has spent more than $840 million for border control operational support. But the GAO analysts said DOD hasn’t internally tracked some costs associated with border support activities.
The report also indicated a difference in the expectations of the support from DHS and the Pentagon. Homeland Security officials expect to continue DOD backing for at least three to five years.
“They continue to experience challenges in recruiting and retaining law enforcement personnel in part because they are competing with the military services and other law enforcement agencies for talent taken from a small pool of eligible applicants,” according to the GAO report.
Deploying to the border also has taken a toll on important training opportunities for Army and Air Force personnel. An Army helicopter unit lost a slot to attend the National Training Center in California because they had been attached to the Department of Homeland Security.
“They also said the pilots experienced challenges completing individual training such as night flying and multi-helicopter flying as well as insertion and extraction exercises, among others,” according to the GAO report. “These disruptions created additional delays in planning efforts for future exercises.”