Survey: Border Patrol agents say they don't have tools to do job

| Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A survey says the majority of U.S. Border Patrol agents don’t think they have been given the tools they need to adequately protect the country from terrorists.

The survey – which included comments from 500 front-line border protection personnel on homeland security issues – was conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the National Border Patrol Council, which represents roughly 10,000 Border Patrol employees nationwide.

The survey indicated that 64 percent of those questioned said they were “just somewhat or not really satisfied with the tools, training and support” they have been given to stop potential terrorists from entering the country.

In addition, the survey showed that a majority of Customs and Border Patrol inspectors and Border Patrol agents interviewed think that some of the federal strategies designed to increase security are ineffective.

Fifty-three percent of Customs and Border Patrol inspectors say the agency’s “One Face at the Border” initiative has had a negative impact.

More than 75 percent of Border Patrol agents say the “strategy of deterrence,” another Homeland Security initiative is either “just somewhat effective” or “not at all effective” in protecting the borders.

“After 9-11 they are trying to mesh three jobs into one,” one agent told the survey firm, “whereas [before], each person would specialize in their respective areas…”

“The bureaucratic bungling that plagued and hampered the old Immigration and Naturalization Service has not only survived, it has thrived in the new Department of Homeland Security,” T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said in a statement.

Bonner’s group, which requested the survey, claims the poll is the first time anyone had asked actual border protection workers about the administration’s homeland security strategies.

“While the results of this survey come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the situation on our borders, they should alarm everyone else,” Bonner said.

Paula Keicer, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, said the agency thinks it has given its agents all the tools necessary to accomplish their jobs.

“Definitely,” she said. “We’re on the right course, but we’re improving. On a day-to-day basis, we’re looking into things that need to be addressed.”

Keicer said those improvements are being accomplished with help from field agents. She also contended that the survey didn’t do a very good job of representing those agents’ views.

“It wasn’t a very good survey, because only 500 of our 42,000 CBP employees were questioned,” Keicer said. “So the methodology of the survey was not complete.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security that combined the U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Immigration, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Border Patrol.

– by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor