Here is an excerpt from Brady McCombs and Stephen Ceasar's article in the Arizona Daily Star:
"A federal program touted as a model for using local law enforcement to help control our borders is handing out $165 million — but with little tracking of how the money is spent, no clear objective and no benchmarks for success, an Arizona Daily Star investigation has found. The Department of Homeland Security's "Operation Stonegarden" gives border law enforcement agencies money to pay officers to work overtime shifts aimed at enhancing border security. The money also lets agencies buy equipment such as four-wheel-drive trucks, radios and night-vision goggles. Star reporters examined more than 10,000 pages of documents and interviewed more than 50 people over the course of seven months as they analyzed how 10 Arizona agencies used the $7.3 million they have spent so far... The paper's investigation reveals a program so loosely managed that it's nearly impossible to determine its goals, much less measure whether those goals are being met." Link to Full Article
Analysis: This article is disturbing on so many levels, yet it doesn't come as a surprise. These kinds of problems were exactly what I was hearing about when I was working in California because some of that Stonegarden money was going to agencies in San Diego and Imperial counties. That's not to say that ALL the money is being misused and abused, but there's a general feeling that the money flow is a big show to give the appearance that the federal government is trying to work with the locals to make a dent in the border security problem. Guess what? It's not.
Here are a few more salient excerpts from the article:
"Homeland Security tracks how much each agency is reimbursed for overtime and equipment, but has no idea how that money is distributed among officers and doesn't keep a list of purchased items."
"With no definition of how officers should spend their overtime shifts, they do anything from patrolling known smuggling routes to targeting street gangs to controlling crowds at parades."
"The last three guidance packets include bullet-point goals, but none is written in a way that makes it possible to measure if the program is helping to control of the border."
This isn't to say that the project's funding isn't doing any good. It is. The problem is that no one can tell anyone else EXACTLY how much good it's doing because of that lack of benchmarks. I'll be the first one to say that the solution (or at least one of them) to controlling border violence is increased funding and manpower. Supporters of the Stonegarden program say it's providing just that, and it's money that's immediately available without having to go through miles of red tape.
I'm very concerned that a good chunk of Stonegarden money is being misused - that's your and my taxpayer money, by the way - and no one can prove that it is or isn't. Not to be overdramatic, but this is mildly reminiscent of the bank bailout. The federal government threw a LOT of money at the banks with very little oversight, and to this day, no one really knows how that money was spent. And that was just an economic issue; in this case, we're dealing with a possible misappropriation of significant sums of money intended for national security.
The intended goals of Operation Stonegarden are good ones; really, they are. But DHS needs to put its nose to the grindstone and crank out some firm guidelines, benchmarks, and accounting standards for OUR money.
This final excerpt sums up so well my opinion of the whole thing:
"Stonegarden serves its purpose politically as soon as the money is given out. You can say, 'Here is what we are doing for border security.' And departments are more than happy to get the money," said Raymond Michalowski, an Arizona regents professor in the department of criminology at Northern Arizona University. "You are assuming that merely spending the money is effective."
And you all know what happens when you assume.