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  4. Written testimony of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing titled “Measuring Border Security: U.S. Border Patrol’s New Strategic Plan and the Path Forward.”

Written testimony of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher for a House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing titled “Measuring Border Security: U.S. Border Patrol’s New Strategic Plan and the Path Forward.”

Release Date: May 8, 2012

311 Cannon


Chairwoman Miller, Ranking Member Cuellar, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, it is an honor to appear before you today to discuss the 2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan and its role within the work that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does in securing America’s borders.

As America’s frontline border agency, CBP’s priority mission is to protect the American public, while facilitating lawful travel and trade. To do this, CBP has deployed a multi-layered, risk-based approach to enhance the security of our borders, while facilitating the flow of lawful people and goods entering the United States. This layered approach to security reduces our reliance on any single point of entry or program. It also extends our zone of security outward, ensuring that our physical border is not the first or last line of defense, but one of many.

Border Security Commitment

Over the past three years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has dedicated historic levels of personnel, technology, and resources in support of our border security efforts and accomplishments. Most recently, the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Budget Request continues these efforts by supporting the largest deployment of law enforcement officers to the frontline in our agency’s history: 21,370 Border Patrol agents, over 1,200 Air and Marine agents, and 21,186 CBP officers, all who work 24/7 with state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement in targeting illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, weapons, and money. Over the last year, we have brought greater unity to our enforcement efforts, expanded collaboration with other agencies, and improved response times.

CBP has also deployed additional technology assets—including mobile surveillance units, thermal imaging systems, and large-and small-scale non-intrusive inspection equipment—along our nation’s borders, and currently has over 270 aircrafts including nine Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), and 301 patrol and interdiction vessels that provide critical aerial and maritime surveillance and operational assistance to personnel on the ground. The UAS program is rapidly changing how ground assets are deployed, supplying Border Patrol Agents with unparalleled situational awareness through its broad area electronic surveillance capabilities. Going forward, CBP will continue to integrate the use of these specialized capabilities into the daily operations of CBP’s frontline personnel to enhance our border security efforts.

The results of these resources dedicated to the border and our layered approach to security are clear. Border Patrol apprehensions along the southwest border—a key indicator of illegal immigration—have decreased 53 percent since FY 2008, and are less than one fifth of what they were at their peak in 2000. We have matched these decreases in apprehensions with increases in seizures of cash, drugs, and weapons. During FYs 2009 through 2011, DHS seized 74 percent more currency, 41 percent more drugs, and 159 percent more weapons along the southwest border as compared to FY 2006-2008. In FY 2011, CBP seized more than $126 million in illegal currency and nearly five million pounds of narcotics nationwide. At the same time, according to 2010 FBI crime reports, violent crimes in southwest border states have dropped by an average of 40 percent in the last two decades. Currently, some of the safest cities in America are border communities.

Every key measure shows we are making significant progress; however, we must remain vigilant and focus on building upon an approach that puts the Border Patrol’s greatest capabilities in place to combat the greatest risks.

Building on the Past –Focusing on the Future

Beginning with “Operation Hold the Line” in El Paso in 1993, “Operation Gatekeeper” in San Diego, CA in 1994, and “Operation Rio Grande” in Brownsville, TX in 1997, the Border Patrol strategically deploys resources to meet the highest priority threats.

The evolution of the Border Patrol as a risk-based, intelligence-driven law enforcement organization is part of a much larger change in the U.S. Government’s approach to border and homeland security, which began with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The 2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan (2012 Strategic Plan) builds on the foundation of the 2004 National Border Patrol Strategy. The Border Patrol’s 2004 Strategy focused on getting the Border Patrol organized and resourced to meet its new, post-9/11 mission and succeed in its new parent organization. For instance, it facilitated the unprecedented deployment of personnel, technology, and infrastructure to secure the nation’s borders.

The 2012 Strategic Plan draws on earlier applications of a risk-based approach as part of the Administration’s comprehensive approach to border security.

2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan

The 2012 Strategic Plan, applying the principles of risk management, sets a strong foundation for the continued evolution of the Border Patrol as an integral part of CBP’s overall border management and homeland security enterprise.

The 2012 Strategic Plan encompasses three key objectives and strategies concerning border security today. First, the Strategic Plan supports national-level strategies, such as the President’s Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime and the National Drug Control Strategy. Second, it supports departmental strategies, in particular the DHS Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. Finally, it supports CBP-wide planning and integration efforts. It means being more effective and efficient in our operations to mitigate risks. It also means continued integration within CBP and working with federal, state, local, tribal, and international partners.

The 2012 Strategic Plan involves a set of objectives, strategies, programs, and initiatives which apply information, integration, and rapid response to develop and deploy new and better tactics, techniques, and procedures to achieve its strategic objectives.

Information, Integration, and Rapid Response

The principal theme of the 2012 Strategic Plan is to use information, integration, and rapid response to meet all threats. These pillars are central as we continue to build upon an approach that puts the Border Patrol’s greatest capabilities in place to combat the greatest risks.

Information gathered from reconnaissance, community engagement, sign-cutting and technology together provide situational awareness and intelligence and helps us to best understand and assess the threats we face along our borders. Information and intelligence will empower Border Patrol leadership and front line agents to get ahead of the threat, be predictive and proactive.

Integration denotes CBP corporate planning and execution of border security operations, while leveraging partnerships with other federal, state, local, tribal, and international organizations. Integration of effort with these organizations will ensure we bring all available capabilities and tools to bear in addressing threats.

Lastly, through rapid response, we will deploy capabilities efficiently and effectively to meet and mitigate the risks we confront. Put simply, rapid response means the Border Patrol and its partners can quickly and appropriately respond to changing threats.

Goal 1: Secure America’s Borders

The 2012 Strategic Plan has two interrelated and interdependent goals. In the first goal, the Border Patrol will work with its federal, state, local, tribal, and international partners to secure America’s borders using information, integration and rapid response in a risk-based manner. There are five objectives within this goal:

  1. Prevent Terrorists and Terrorist Weapons from Entering the United States
  2. Manage Risk
  3. Disrupt and Degrade Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs)
  4. Whole-of-Government Approach
  5. Increase Community Engagement

I. Prevent Terrorists and Terrorist Weapons from Entering the United States
The current risk environment is characterized by constantly evolving threats that are both complex and varying, and the Border Patrol must strategically apply intelligence to ensure that operations are focused and targeted against the greatest threats. The Border Patrol’s ability to prevent and disrupt such threats is enhanced through increased information sharing and operational integration, planning, and execution with our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners. Integration with our federal, state, local, tribal, and international partners’ intelligence and enforcement capabilities into the planning and execution of CBP operations is critical to our ability to secure our nation’s borders.

II. Manage Risk
Developing and deploying the best possible information and intelligence is critical to assessing and managing risk. The Border Patrol has made significant progress in securing the nation’s borders through the deployment of personnel, technology, and infrastructure. These enhanced resources have made our borders more secure. Yet as threats along the border continue to evolve, CBP’s capabilities to meet these threats must also continue to adapt. Accordingly, as we evolve from a resource-based approach towards a more risk-based approach, we must be able to focus the Border Patrol’s capabilities in rapidly responding to threats along the border.

Given the dynamic nature of cross-border threats, the Border Patrol must become more mobile to respond appropriately to the changing threat. Mobile Response Capability provides the Border Patrol with the flexibility to deploy capabilities to the highest risk areas of the border. The Border Patrol also deploys scalable capabilities to areas – before they become high risk – to maintain the highest possible levels of security in each border area. This capability builds on situational awareness, because the Border Patrol must know when, where, and to what extent to deploy its capabilities.

III. Disrupt and Degrade TCOs
Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) represent a significant cross-border threat to homeland security. These organizations control most cross-border trafficking in guns and illegal drugs, as well as an increasing percentage of human smuggling and trafficking. With efforts in place to understand the origin and magnitude of threats along the border, the Border Patrol can now focus on specific threats like TCOs, and work to disrupt and degrade their operations. The Border Patrol’s response to this threat also will involve close collaboration within CBP and includes federal, state, local, and tribal partners to advance the common goal of disrupting and degrading TCO activity. For example, CBP has developed, with the support of its strategic partners, a new Consequence Delivery System (CDS) that guides agents through a process designed to evaluate each subject and identify the appropriate consequence to break the smuggling cycle. Consequences delivered under this system that execute targeted enforcement techniques range from administrative, criminal prosecution, and programmatic elements that are designed to impact and change the way TCOs conduct business and stem the flow of illegal activity.

IV. Whole-of-Government Approach
The U.S. Border Patrol will continue to integrate targeting practices and joint operations with CBP’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) and Office of Air and Marine (OAM) to better achieve its goals. The Border Patrol also will work with its federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners to achieve a holistic approach to border security. This is accomplished by establishing a unity of purpose; advancing operational integration and jointly planned targeted operations; developing intelligence and accomplishing intelligence fusion; and creating integrated partnerships. This whole-of-government approach, coupled with the application of the principles of targeted enforcement, consequence delivery, and operational discipline, provides the capability necessary to enhance the Border Patrol and its partners’ abilities to address threats or emergencies within a region.

V. Increase Community Engagement
The Border Patrol will continue to use its collective capabilities to engage and educate the public on border activities and issues so we can leverage the critical assistance of our border communities. Active engagement by the Border Patrol with local law enforcement and the public can assist in lowering crime and reducing violence. Additionally, through briefings, tours, informal meetings, and stakeholder “academies,” the Border Patrol is able to show the operational achievements and challenges, which are essential to fostering support from our partners and stakeholders.

Goal 2: Strengthen the Border Patrol

The Border Patrol must also continue to mature, refine, and integrate its capabilities and techniques. To meet current and future operational and organizational requirements, it is essential to develop, deploy, and manage institutional capabilities within the Border Patrol. This includes areas such as human capital management, training, leadership development, employee support, organizational integrity, doctrine development, and technology research and development. The Border Patrol will strengthen its institutional capabilities through five objectives:

  1. Strengthen Investment in People
  2. Support Border Patrol Employees
  3. Preserve Organizational Integrity
  4. Improve Organizational Processes, Systems, and Doctrine
  5. Enhance Overall Efficiency of the Border Patrol

I. Strengthen Investment in People
People are our most valuable asset. The Border Patrol must hire the most qualified applicants and train new employees to be successful in performing the mission. Leaders must ensure that employees have the opportunity to reach their highest potential by receiving the appropriate education, training, and work experiences to progress in the organization. Border Patrol will use a multi-tiered approach incorporating education, training, and work experience to maximize the effectiveness of Border Patrol personnel, such as succession management, targeted placement, advanced education and training, joint and inter-agency assignments, and mentoring.

II. Support Border Patrol Employees
We must reinforce employee-support initiatives and programs that continue the tradition of the Border Patrol. Given the challenges law enforcement face in their daily work, it is incumbent upon leadership to provide ways for Border Patrol employees to remain resilient in the performance of their day-to-day duties. The National Critical Incident Response Team, a component of the Border Patrol’s Traumatic Incident Management Plan, supports CBP employees involved in small- and large-scale, critical-incident operations. The team consists of peer support members, chaplains, and mental-health professionals who have specialized training in critical-incident-response management.

III. Preserve Organizational Integrity
The U.S. Border Patrol is fortunate in that the documented cases of corrupt employees represent only a minute percentage of the workforce. However, any instance of corruption within our ranks always has been – and always will be – unacceptable. We are committed to organizational integrity and remain vigilant in training and promoting initiatives to combat corruption to ensure morale and mission are not compromised. Leaders must set the example and promote integrity throughout the Border Patrol to reduce the potential for corruption.

IV. Improve Organization Processes, Systems, and Doctrine
As the Border Patrol grows and matures, it is necessary to codify best practices and policies to ensure that the organization continues to provide professional border-enforcement capability for the United States. Doctrine will focus on overarching enduring principles, sector operations, and future border security initiatives that all agents can use to execute their mission in the field.

V. Enhance Overall Efficiency of the Border Patrol
It is the Border Patrol’s responsibility to ensure that its leaders, agents, and support personnel are good stewards of American tax dollars. As the Border Patrol progresses toward organizational rigor and maturity, an essential element will be the development and continual refinement of comprehensive, demanding, and results-driven performance measures that hold us accountable. Even as the organization internalizes these standards, it also must effectively communicate overall performance to its most important stakeholders – the American public.


The 2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan marks an important point in the growth and development of the U.S. Border Patrol, and establishes an approach that is tailored to meet the challenges of securing a 21st century border against a variety of different threats and adversaries. Ultimately, leveraging all available actions, programs, and techniques encompassed within the 2012 Strategic Plan will strengthen the Border Patrol internally, increase capabilities and operations, and enhance border security through information, integration and rapid response.

Chairwoman Miller, Ranking Member Cuellar, and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify about the work of CBP, our efforts in securing our borders, and the 2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan. I look forward to answering your questions at this time.

Last Updated: 03/10/2022
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