E.g., 07/26/2014
E.g., 07/26/2014

One Face at The Border: Behind the Slogan

Reports
June 2005

One Face at The Border: Behind the Slogan

This report provides the first analysis of the Department of Homeland Security’s “One Face at the Border” (OFAB) initiative designed to integrate the immigration, customs, and agriculture functions of United States border management under the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Drawing from the author’s field research in three areas with significant international arrivals and numerous ports of entry—Detroit/Windsor, San Diego/Tijuana, and Miami—and information gathered from over 80 interviews, the report analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the initiative and makes recommendations for improving this new unified border management effort.

The report finds that changes under OFAB has led to improved efficiency by reducing duplicative efforts, providing CBP with additional personnel and greater staffing flexibility, creating a single policy for inspection practices, and allowing CBP to access previously unavailable security-oriented technology. Despite these improvements, the report points to widespread concerns over the deterioration of specialized knowledge and expertise among CBP agents, the lack of procedural consistency among different locations and facilities, morale problems stemming from stricter employee standards, and the agency’s lack of transparency, program evaluation, and performance metrics. Furthermore, infrastructure limitations, significant learning curves for new job functions, and inadequate information systems all seem to contribute to the lack of palpable changes in day-to-day operations at ports of entry.

To ensure that these challenges do not undermine CBP’s mission, the report offers the following recommendations: create areas of specialization and corresponding training opportunities for CBP officers; develop a new institutional culture and vision that emphasizes agency transparency and employee partnership; increase outreach efforts with stakeholders and the broader public; advocate for cross-agency database access and integration; and invest in long-term infrastructure improvements while exploring ways to reduce the burden in the meantime.