Sunday, March 11, 2012

Texas Outsourced its Own Border Security Model to Beltway Consultants

Ret. General Abrams in Iraq (right)
(Third in a series of reports on Operation Border Star in Texas by Tom 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.

ALIS, according to the August 2010 “emergency contract,” was, among other things, hired to do everything from formulating strategy to running operations to managing public relations – not only for Operation Border Start but also for the Texas Rangers and DPS itself.

The “emergency” contract for $1.5 million ALIS services, which was signed by McCraw and ALIS Chief Operating Officer on August 31, 2010, underscored the central role of ALIS in shaping and directing border security operations in Texas.

Echoing the expansive scope of the language used in earlier contracts, DPS once again hired ALIS to:

Develop and refine border-wide security strategies and plans for seamless integration of interagency law enforcement border security operations in the State of Texas.

With a staff of at least 17 analysts and information specialists -- many with military backgrounds --ALIS was contracted to give provide the vision for and the structural foundation for Operation Border Star.

Initially, Border Star had been little more a commitment by the Perry to support the newly formed Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition and its Operation Linebacker, using federal criminal-justice funds controlled by the governor’s office, along with an occasional show of force by DPS police in Texas border counties.

Over the years, with each successive contract, the extent of responsibility outsourced to ALIS expanded dramatically. One of the first contracts gave ALIS the task of developing a computerized crime-mapping system for the greater Texas border region, which is known as TexMap.

By late 2010, however, DPS was paying ALIS to, among other things:

* “Define and write a Border Security Strategic Vision.”

* “Manage and operate the Border Security Operations Center (BSOC).”

* “Develop border-wide strategies and plans to support interagency effectiveness.”

* “Refine and update Operation Border Star 2012-2013.”

* “Develop plans for border-related Mass Migration contingencies.”

* Develop plans for “Texas Ranger operations,” and develop standard operating procedures for “Ranger Renaissance Teams” (including the new gunboat operations).

* “Facilitate creation of the Border Operations Planning Group.”

* “Develop a Border Security media/public information outreach strategy.”

* “Provide sufficient manpower to provide leadership, subject-matter expertise, and quality assurance/control in areas of border security planning and operations.”

* “Support and sustain the six Joint Operations Intelligence Centers (JOICs),” which are situated along the Texas border and Gulf Coast.

* “Conceptualize a Sensor Master Plan for the border region,” as part of the “web-based” electronic surveillance systems created by the governor’s officer and DPS.

* “Develop and refine DPS Agency Strategic Plans,” including the DPS Strategic Plan 2011-2015.

* “Facilitate development of a DPS policy document outlining roles, responsibilities, and authorities of Regional Commanders, Ranger Captains, DPS Divisions, and JOICs with regard to countering crime and terrorism in the border region.” 

The August 31, 2010 emergency contract with ALIS built on earlier contracts, which steadily reinforced the centrality of the homeland security contractor not only to execute assigned tasks but also to formulate strategy and direct operations.

An earlier contract had empowered ALIS to formulate the drafts of the Texas Border Security Campaign Plan, the governor’s 2010-2015 Homeland Security Strategy Plan, and the DPS Agency Strategy Plan 2010.

That’s worth repeating.

This little-known, upstart consulting agency from the Washington Beltway had been hired by the state’s public safety and homeland security director to: write the campaign plan for the governor’s border security campaign, conceptualize and write the state’s strategy statement for homeland security, and produce the strategy plan for DPS itself.

One of the most striking and disturbing components of the August 2010 contract was the new public relations and outreach role given ALIS contractors. According to the contract, ALIS would assume a new role that would combine public relations, communications, and policy-advocacy functions.

Instead of merely being a hired gun contracted for predetermined border-security operations in Texas, ALIS contractors were expected to develop strategies, gather information to support these strategies, and then work to shape public opinion and public policy about border security threats and responses. The only border experience that ALIS brought to the table when it was hired was that its founder General Abrams had in the late 1980s commanded a regiment that was responsible for protecting the German “inner-border” prior to German reunification.

Specific tasks outsourced to ALIS included producing “reports, briefings, studies, and recommendations” for “Texas leadership.” ALIS was also tasked to “orient senior government leaders on border security issues,” with possible options including “public affairs strategy and plans, fact sheets, talking points, speeches, presentations, and testimony.”

The stipulated goal of the “Border Security media/public information outreach strategy” was, according to the DPS contract, to “build support for border security” among the public, media, and policy community in Texas. As noted in the contract, ALIS would at times also be expected to leverage its BSOC fusion center staff “to surge for 24/7 information operations.”

Rather than gathering intelligence and analyzing information, DPS tasked ALIS to provide DPS and the Texas Rangers with “the necessary information to assist the ongoing operations.” Its BSOC staff were expected to “discipline the information operations process by serving the state information operations ‘net control” station for border security.”

The BSOC and the JOICs would be tasked, according to the contract, to “provide needed information products as required by Texas Rangers” and to produce “effective information products.”

In review, in the interests of border security and homeland security, ALIS was contracted by DPS – with the approval of the Public Safety Commission and the governor – to manufacture “information products.” What is more, DPS wanted ALIS to ensure that the information was “effective” as well as “necessary” for ongoing operations.

There has been absolutely no review by policy makers or by the public of DPS outsourcing of border-security strategy and operations. 

It’s likely, though, that, if there were ever such transparency and accountability, at least a few policymakers and concerned citizens would caution that structuring information as an instrument may replicate the information- and psychological-ops of the military and intelligence agencies but may not be an appropriate way to consider information gathering and dissemination on the home front. The term propaganda might arise in any public review this type of outsourcing.

Similarly, the concept that a private contractor should participate in information surges that would parallel operational surges by law enforcement officers and state troops might also have sparked discussion about the proper use of state and federal funds. 

As is, it seems that the directors Operation Border Star – Governor Perry and DPS Director McCraw – view information and intelligence as fungible commodities that can be created, manipulated, and shaped to serve the greater good of the nation and Texas border security.

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