Monday, October 25, 2010

New Consulting Firm at “Epicenter” of Border Security in Texas

Gen. John Abrams (left) 

(Second in a series on border security outsourcing in Texas.)

John N. Abrams did what many generals do when they retire – parlay his military contacts and experience into media and business.  

Shortly after retiring, the four-star general was hired as a military expert by the Associated Press and founded Abrams Learning & Information Systems (ALIS). As one of the many new homeland security consulting firms formed by former U.S. military officers in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, ALIS aims to secure a piece of the country’s booming homeland security business.

ALIS hasn’t managed to break into the multi-billion contract market at the federal Department of Homeland Security (DPS) – having no DHS contracts in last three years – but it hit a bonanza of homeland security contracting in Texas with its contracts for border security operations.  According to the company’s website:

“ALIS has been commissioned to improve border security along the U.S. – Mexico border through the development of an epicenter for security operations. The objective of the operational center is to plan, coordinate, implement, and evaluate interagency border security operations to counter the threat of organized crime, terrorism, and the flow of contraband and human trafficking to foster a secure border region.”

ALIS boasts that its founder, president, and CEO John Abrams is “an internationally recognized subject-matter expert in border security, public policy, international treaties, operations, training and education, and technology integration.” What is more, Abrams, says ALIS,  “is also a recognized corporate leader in developing sustainable strategies and programs.”

Abrams, whose father was Gen Creighton Abrams (who led the ill-fated Vietnamization campaign and Cambodia invasion during the wars in Southeast Asia), did have several U.S. Army commands – including 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Joint Task Force Kuwait, 2nd Infantry Division, V Corps, and Army Training and Doctrine Command – but his credentials as a U.S.-Mexico border security strategist, technology integration expert, and corporate leader, among other described merits, are questionable.

With no discussion, the Texas Public Safety Commission at its August 12, 2010 meeting in Austin approved an “emergency contract for providing strategies and plans to support the management of the Texas Border Security Operations Center (Abrams Learning & Information Systems).”  The commission also extended another DPS outsourcing contract held by APRISS for another information and technology driven project of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), namely Texas Data Exchange (TDEx).

Border security is a major topic of political debate, public concern, and government spending in Texas. 

Yet neither Governor Perry nor DPS Director Steve McCraw have pointed to the central role of a private consulting firm in Arlington, Virginia in the design and implementation of the state’s border security strategy and operations. No questions are asked by the members of the Public Safety Commission, which oversees DPS budget and activities.  Instead the contracts with ALIS have been renewed three times with little or no discussion, and most recently extended beyond the three-renewal contract limit by an “emergency procurement” measure that the state’s regulatory commission recently approved.

At least publicly, ALIS has not been asked to demonstrate the value of its two interrelated DPS contracts for Border Security Management and Operations and for border crime-mapping through TxMap. Nearly $18 million has been spent thus far on these ALIS projects. Similarly, there is little transparency or accountability with respect to another major DPS contract – with APPRISS, which has a $10 million contract for the similarly enigmatic TDEX crime intelligence project.

Aside from the border security impact of ALIS, there is also the unasked question:  Is it advisable to hand over the responsibility to a private consulting firm – with a minimal track record – for formulating the strategies of border security, homeland security, and public safety in Texas, or anywhere?  ALIS was charged by its contracts to do just that – formulate the Texas Border Security Campaign Plan, 2010-2015 Homeland Security Strategy Plan,  and the TEXDPS Agency Strategy Plan 2010.

(Next: The Outsourced Border Security Operations Center and Joint Operations Intelligence Centers.)

For related material and analysis, see: Tom Barry, "At War in Texas."


mrbill said...

Since they have the helicopters we would like to see a few cruise missiles set off for at least a show and tell. Let both the cartels and illegals start to understand we are coming for way or another.

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justin albert said...

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