Since 2006 many of the key figures in state-led border security operations and information campaigns have identified themselves as DPS employees or part of the Texas Rangers to the public, policy community and the media, disguising their true identities.Says Barry, "It would be hard to exaggerate the degree to which Governor Perry and DPS Chief McCraw have outsourced state border-security, homeland-security, and public-safety programs to Washington Beltway contractors." Further, and this is certainly accurate, "There has been absolutely no review by policy makers or by the public of DPS outsourcing of border-security strategy and operations." Maybe now it will come.
The business card he handed me during the sheriffs meeting identified Sikes as the director of the Border Security Operations Center (BSOC) – which is a type of fusion center for border-security operations in Texas. It’s a project of the Texas Rangers Division, which in turn is a branch of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
However, Mac Sikes is neither a Texas Ranger nor a DPS employee. Like most of the other key figures behind the Lone Star State’s border security campaign, Sikes is a contract employee.
A “senior operational analyst” at Abrams Learning & Information Systems (ALIS), Sikes became director of BSOC as part of the firm’s $3-5 million annual contracts with DPS since 2006. The recent DPS decision -- in response to a public records request -- to release the ALIS contract revealed the true identity of Sikes.
The Border Security Operations Center is the nexus of the Texas’ own border security initiatives, collectively known as Operation Border Star. ALIS, a homeland-security consulting firm with offices in Arlington, Virginia, was founded in 2004 by Ret. Army Gen. John Abrams to cash in on the billions of dollars in new government contracting funds that started to flow after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
Since 2006 ALIS functioned as the hidden force behind virtually all non-federal border-security operations in Texas. Whether it’s strategy formulation, border crime-mapping, operations management, or public relations, ALIS and its team of consultants have been closely involved in creating what Governor Rick Perry calls the “Texas model of border security.”
In addition, wrote Barry, a February report (pdf) from the Texas state auditor found a number of irregularities with federal grant spending:
The audit reviewed a representative selection of cases among the $265.9 million in federal grants and subgrants to DPS -- in the areas of homeland security, border security, emergency management, and law enforcement interoperability.
Among the findings of negligence and incompetence were these startling instances:This is a good example why Grits is under the impression that Texas would benefit from more original reporting on criminal-justice topics. Our media should have picked up on the outsourcing of border security operations long ago, but not a single reporter (MSM or otherwise) regularly attends meetings of the Public Safety Commission, much less covers the agency in remotely the level of detail, say, that the Austin Statesman's Mike Ward does for TDCJ. There's just a vacuum of coverage on the agency's activities that journalism should but doesn't routinely fill. I'm happy Mr. Barry wrote the piece, but every political or crime-beat reporter and editor in Texas should be kicking themselves for having missed the story for the last half-dozen years until after the practice is a fait accompli.
- A draw-down of $755,509 in federal funds to issue a duplicate payment to one subgrantee.
- Five of the six procurements (83%) examined by the auditor in the cluster of federal grants for homeland and border security were not bid competitively as required.
- DPS categorized four of the five procurements examined by the auditor as “emergency procurements,” and in three of those four DPS was unable to document why they were processed as “emergency” contracts.
- DPS has no system to track, administer, monitor federal subgrants – as federal guidelines require, leading to routine occurrences of duplicate payments, dipping into one federal fund to pay for unrelated programs, and failure to submit required reports and audits.
- Complete failure to track interest rates on unused federal funds and to remit those funds, as required by federal grant guidelines.
- Access to law-enforcement databases by contract programmers who lacked proper authorization or clearance.
See more at Barry's blog, Border Lines.
MORE: From the Austin Statesman.