McSally bill would require first comprehensive threat analysis of southwest border in 24 years

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would undertake the first mile-by-mile threat analysis of the nation’s southwest border since 1993 under legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) on Wednesday.

The Southwest Border Security Threat Assessment Act of 2017 would direct DHS to conduct a threat assessment within 180 days that identifies potential vulnerabilities and threats, as well as solutions to mitigate them. U.S. Border Patrol would then use the findings to draft a new strategic plan.

“DHS’s current state of situational awareness along the border is inadequate, and they certainly have not achieved anything close to operational control,” McSally, the chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, said.

The threat assessment would take into account potential terrorism and criminal threats posed by individuals and groups who attempt to unlawfully enter the United States through the southwest border. Through analyzing those threats, DHS will take into account challenges with current technology, the need to recruit and hire qualified personnel, as well as infrastructure needs.

“In order for our nation to effectively secure the border, we must first assess the threats that exist, understand and identify the gaps in our defenses and then develop a plan to address those gaps with a blend of more manpower, technology and infrastructure. The Southwest Border Security Threat Assessment Act will prod DHS to determine the answers to those fundamental questions.”

McSally has been a long-time proponent of border security. During a subcommittee hearing in March 2016, she questioned a Customs and Border Protection report that the agency was 81 percent effective on the southwest border in 2015.

“These new effectiveness numbers are hard to believe, and I believe are inaccurate measures of the state of security on the border,” McSally said during the hearing. “The new interdiction effectiveness rate includes unaccompanied children and families from countries other than Mexico, who turn themselves in, inflating the number. It also fails to take into account the number the Border Patrol never sees, or the denominator, which also inflates the effectiveness.”

McSally has led legislative efforts to address staff shortages, to modernize entry ports and to hold border projects accountable. She also led 20 members of Congress on a tour of the southwest border in 2015.