Predator drones in the U.S. Homeland a waste of money

Tom Barry writes on the fantastic waste of money and resources U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spends on enforcing its borders with Predator drones. Each Predator costs around $20 million, plus the millions of dollars needed to maintain the system. The CBP has around 9 Predators hovering over the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico border.

The actual Department of Homeland Security program isn’t classified, but most FOI requests have been stonewalled, maintaining a secrecy not dissimilar from the CIA’s targeted killings thousands of miles away. Although the CBP program started in 2004, the first significant information provided  came in May 2012 in the form of a brief report by the DHS Office of Inspector General: CBP’s Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the Nation’s Border Security, DHS Office of Inspector General, issued in May 2012.

The efficacy of the program is like a drop in the ocean.

The 7,500 “criminal aliens” that the Border Patrol detained are small potatoes when compared to CBP’s overall number of detentions since 2005 – 5.7 million immigrants, including the 327,000 detained in 2011. Expressed as a percentage, this amounts to only .001 percent of those detained during that period.

While categorized by CBP as “dangerous people” because they have crossed the border illegally, mostly they are simply unauthorized immigrants, although a small number are marijuana backpackers.

To give some perspective to the drug haul attributed to UAV surveillance over six years – 46,600 pounds of marijuana – CBP on average seizes 3,500 pounds of marijuana every day in Arizona, making a seizure every 1.7 hours. Drones had a role in the seizure of less than one percent of the Border Patrol’s total marijuana in the past six years – only .003 percent to be precise.

The Office of Inspector General also found that:

• Drone usage fell drastically short of OAM’s own “mission availability threshold” (minimum capability) and its mission availability objective – 37 percent and 29 percent.

• Because of budget shortfalls for UAV maintenance, CBP in 2010 alone had to transfer $25 million from other CBP programs to maintain its UAV fleet even at a usage level that fell far short of the planned minimum.

• CPB has run its drone program in violation of its own operational standards and lacks the required “mobile backup ground control stations” at three of the four drone bases.

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