Millions Later, DHS Tool to Thwart Terrorism Still Not Ready
Nearly 13 years after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, a crucial Homeland Security program that’s supposed to thwart terrorism has no completion date or final cost estimate, though millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on it in the last few years.
It’s called the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) and it’s the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) main tool for screening foreigners entering the U.S. This is done by utilizing a multitude of watch lists that monitor money laundering, terrorist activities, pornography investigations and other valuable data that could intercept a national security threat.
After 9/11 U.S. authorities determined that TECS, which was originally created in the 1980s, was antiquated and could not meet the demands of the increased security required to protect the country from another terrorist attack. So, DHS asked Congress for a chunk of change to modernize the system and the plan became officially known as TECS Mod. The DHS agencies in charge, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), each got generous budgets to update their respective TECS programs.
ICE, the DHS agency that enforces immigration laws, said it would enhance its program by 2015 at an astounding cost of $818 million. CBP, which is responsible for securing the nation’s ports of entry, said its upgrade would cost $724 million and would be complete by 2016. Both agencies recently revealed that the deadlines would not me met and they need more money to complete the TECS modernization though they’re not quite sure when that will be.
While this may sound like a joke, it’s all documented in a federal audit released this month by the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO). “After spending millions of dollars and over 4 years on TECS modernization, it is unclear when it will be delivered and at what cost,” according to the GAO’s findings. Both ICE and CBP are in the process of “revising” their original estimates relating to the modernization so no final price tag or time frame has been delivered.
This is downright insane and there needs to be accountability, not to mention a halt to the free-flow of taxpayer money for this project. The audit was only conducted because someone in Congress asked for it, but all too often lawmakers fail to take any action on the findings of these valuable probes. Besides the deplorable waste of public funds, national security is clearly at stake in this case. It’s reprehensible that more than a decade after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, this system is still not working efficiently.
How could the U.S. government let this happen? TECS is the nation’s primary system for determining admissibility of persons to the United States, the GAO confirms in its report. Though outdated and not as efficient as it should be, DHS depends on the system to screen about 900,000 visitors and 465,000 vehicles daily. Its primary goal is to prevent terrorism and provide border security, law enforcement and intelligence functions for federal, state and local agencies.