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Follow up Report on Border Patrol's Efforts to
Improve Northern Border Security (Redacted Version)

Report No. I-2002-004
February 2002



In February 2000, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued an inspection report entitled Border Patrol Efforts Along the Northern Border, I-2000-04 (2000 report). In that report, we concluded that the Border Patrol faced significant enforcement challenges along the United States-Canada border and was unable to adequately respond to illegal activity, primarily because of a lack of sufficient staff and resources. The purpose of this follow-up review was to examine the progress the Border Patrol has made in improving the security of the northern border since the OIG issued the original report, particularly in light of the events of September 11, 2001.


The 2000 report noted that the Border Patrol's current Strategic Plan (Plan), issued in 1994, was designed to strengthen the control of the United States borders through the establishment of operational goals and performance measures. The Plan was divided into four phases with no established timeframes or milestones to measure progress. The first three phases concentrated on specific areas of the southwest border. The Plan did not address the northern border until its fourth and final phase. When we were conducting field work for our 2000 report, the Border Patrol was in Phase II of its Plan and would not estimate when implementation of Phase IV would begin.

The Border Patrol's 1994 Strategic Plan involves two distinct methodologies for deploying resources to the southwest and northern borders. Border Patrol officials told the OIG that the methodology on the southwest border involves a forward deployment of resources as a deterrent. The priorities for allocation of resources for this effort are personnel, equipment, and technology. This methodology is based on the volume and type of apprehensions on the southwest border as well as the close proximity of major U.S. population centers to the southwest border. The forward-deployed, personnel-intensive strategy is a reflection of the short amount of time the Border Patrol has to respond to illegal aliens before they disappear into the U.S. population.

The methodology for the northern border is different. The priorities for allocation of resources for this effort are liaison/intelligence, technology, equipment, and personnel. This methodology is based on the general lack of large U.S. population centers on the northern border and the longer times available for the Border Patrol to respond to illegal aliens.

Our 2000 report examined how the Border Patrol collected and assessed information about illegal activity occurring along the northern border and how the Border Patrol used its resources to respond to it. The report reviewed the allocation of Border Patrol resources to the northern border and concluded the allocation was insufficient. 1

The 2000 report found that the Border Patrol was unable to accurately assess the level of illegal activity along the northern border. Border Patrol and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials described shortcomings of the data commonly used to track illegal activity. This lack of concrete information on the magnitude of illegal activity made it difficult for the Border Patrol to assess the need for and the proper placement of its resources.

In addition, our 2000 report concluded that the Border Patrol was unable to adequately respond to illegal activity along the northern border. The 324 Border Patrol agents (as of September 30, 1999) assigned to the eight northern border sectors could not effectively monitor the approximate 4,000-mile border with Canada. Northern border sector officials reported that some shifts had no coverage, which left the border completely open to illegal activity. This situation worsened when Border Patrol agents were detailed to support operations on the southwest border. In addition, the report found that northern border sectors lacked sufficient essential equipment, or "force multipliers," such as radios, cameras, sensors, and boats that could improve enforcement capabilities.

Scope and Methodology

This follow-up review primarily relied on information obtained from interviews with the chief patrol agents in the eight northern sectors, Border Patrol officials in the three INS regions (Eastern, Central, and Western), and officials from INS Headquarters. In addition, the OIG examined workload statistics provided by the INS's Office of Statistics on Border Patrol enforcement activities in the eight northern sectors for Fiscal Years (FY) 2000 and 2001.

Prior to the interviews, we sent each of the eight chief patrol agents an extensive questionnaire asking about current northern sector enforcement operations. This questionnaire solicited information and opinions from the chief patrol agents on staffing levels and deployment status, equipment condition and availability, resource needs, and intelligence sharing. We also sent a copy of this questionnaire to Border Patrol officials in each of the three INS regions and at INS Headquarters. After interviewing the chief patrol agents, we discussed the results of these interviews with Border Patrol officials in each of the three INS regions and at INS Headquarters.


  1. Of the Border Patrol's 21 sectors, 8 are located on the northern border. The headquarters for these eight northern sectors are located in Blaine, WA; Spokane, WA; Havre, MT; Grand Forks, ND; Detroit, MI; Buffalo, NY; Swanton, VT; and Houlton, ME. The number of Border Patrol stations operating under the control of each northern sector headquarters varies; currently, the range is from four to nine stations.