I am writing to clarify the status of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Air and Marine (OAM), unmanned aircraft system (UAS) acquisition plans.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Unmanned Aircraft System Program Does Not Achieve Intended Results or Recognize All Costs of Operations," inaccurately conveys OAM's UAS procurement plans. The draft report states, "CBP's long-term plans include adding 14 more unmanned aircraft to its fleet [of 10 aircraft]... In October 2012, OAM proposed adding about $443 million to the existing support and maintenance contract for its unmanned aircraft to acquire, support, and maintain the additional 14 aircraft."
The OIG referenced a July 17, 2008, Acquisition Decision Memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Management and a 2012 Acquisition Plan Annex for the CBP Strategic Air and Marine Plan to conclude that OAM plans to procure an additional 14 UAS. While these documents outline potential UAS procurements, they authorize - not mandate - the purchase. These documents clearly state two key caveats: 1) procurement is based upon OAM's mission needs and determination, and 2) procurement is dependent on available funds.
Currently, OAM has a fleet of nine UAS, and intends to purchase one additional aircraft to replace the one that ditched off the coast of California in January 2014. There is no intent at this time to acquire additional UAS beyond the one replacement aircraft, nor does OAM have a contract or funding in place to expand the UAS program.
OAM's existing UAS program funding allocation is being used to expand the program's infrastructure and achieve a greater level of utilization of its existing fleet. Until OAM is able to elevate the staffing, operations, and maintenance of its existing UAS fleet, it does not support the expansion of the program.
Randolph D. Alles
Office of Air and Marine
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
CBP's full response to the report, including each of the four recommendations, can be viewed in the following document: CBP Response to OIG UAS Report.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.