Border security: CBP could improve how it categorizes drug seizure data and evaluates training
What the GAO found
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents follow a multi-step process when seizing drugs. This process includes collecting seizure data such as drug type and method of concealment from CBP data systems. CBP officials have several mechanisms to perform quality assurance efforts on drug seizure records. For example, they perform supervisory reviews of the accuracy of records before they are finalized. CBP intelligence entities, such as Targeting and Field Intelligence Units, review seizure data in CBP data systems daily to inform their drug interdiction efforts, target drug traffickers and monitor trends in drug seizures. The GAO found that the number of CBP drug seizures increased from about 65,000 in fiscal year 2016 to 99,000 in fiscal year 2021.
Number of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) drug seizures, fiscal years 2016 to 2021
Although CBP has various fields in its data systems to record, analyze, and use drug seizure data, it has not evaluated its categories by drug type to determine whether they adequately reflect drug smuggling scenarios. drugs encountered by officers and CBP officers and whether they are useful for targeting and intelligence. For example, the GAO found that 23% of total drug seizures from fiscal years 2016 to 2021 fell into a catch-all drug type category— Other Drugs, Prescriptions and Chemicals. CBP intelligence officials the GAO spoke to who use and analyze drug seizure data said they have concerns about the categories of drug types available, particularly this catch-all category. , because the lack of specificity requires additional research, such as text searches. Assessing the categories of drug types available in its data systems could strengthen the quality of CBP’s drug seizure data and reduce the work of CBP intelligence officials analyzing the data.
While CBP officers and agents are trained in the process of recording drug seizures during their academic and post-academic programs, CBP has not evaluated its post-academic drug seizure training. Specifically, the Office of Field Operations (OFO) and the US Border Patrol have not evaluated them since their implementation in 2011 and 2006, respectively. Finalizing and implementing a plan for regular evaluation of their post-academic drug seizure training would provide OFO and Border Patrol with the data and information needed to determine if the training is helping to achieve CBP’s objectives for drug seizures.
Why GAO Did This Study
Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CBP is responsible for securing the nation’s borders and preventing the illegal flow of people, contraband, and drugs from entering the United States. CBP plays an important role in national efforts to prevent illicit drug use and prescription drug abuse. Specifically, CBP is responsible for interdicting drugs and working with other federal agencies to prevent their importation.
The GAO was asked to review issues with CBP drug seizure data and training. This report examines (1) how CBP collects and categorizes drug seizure data into its systems and monitors drug seizure trends, and (2) the extent to which CBP trains its officers and officers on the process of registration of drug seizures and evaluates his training.
The GAO analyzed CBP drug seizure data from fiscal years 2016 through 2021, which was the most recent data available; and reviewed related policies and procedures. The GAO also interviewed officials at CBP headquarters and at 11 selected field sites, including officers and agents at those locations. The GAO selected these locations to include varying levels of drug seizures and a variety of geographic locations, among other factors.