The U.S. likely will not achieve 100 percent situational awareness of the U.S. border before the end of the Obama administration, Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson says.
During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) pressed Johnson on the level of control the government is able to maintain at the U.S. border.
“The Department has argued 100 percent operational control objective is imprudent and I understand some of the argument for why that is, because you would be devoting certain kinds of resources in places that might be lower risk threats than if you build a matrix in kind of thinking about where we want to make those investments is to try to deter catastrophic events before all else,” Sasse said.
The Nebraska lawmaker then Johnson whether the department had 100 percent “situational awareness” of the border, to which the DHS secretary indicated that they are making progress toward getting to 100 percent.
“Every time I’ve looked at this exact issue on the southern border in particular and I think I’ve seen analysis for the northern border as well. Our situational awareness is getting better, but it gets better by virtue of surveillance technology, surveillance capability. And there is a lot of that reflected in our budget request. More mobile surveillance, aerial surveillance and the more we have the more situational awareness we have,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson the department does have a 100 percent situational awareness goal, “in at least certain sectors.”
“I don’t know whether that would be absolutely true for every single sector of the border,” he said. “In general it ought to be, but in the immediate term I know the numbers, the percentage of border land for which we have situational awareness is increasing all the time.”
Sasse then asked Johnson if he believed the department would get to that 100 percent objective by the end of his time as DHS secretary.
“Probably not during my tenure, my tenure is growing short, I’d like it to be over at a certain time. I don’t know that we’ll be able to achieve that before the end of this administration, if that is your question,” he said.
At the close of the hearing, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) encouraged DHS to take a methodical path to achieve situational awareness.
“We’ve talked about 100 percent situational control of the border and I think you appropriately answered that’s not going to happen within this administration. I guess I would just encourage this administration to look at a step by step approach,” Johnson said. “I know it’s been said, ‘No it has to be comprehensive.’ We need to start increasing the level of security. There are dozens of things that we need to do.”
He’s urging the department to work with his committee to take on that step-by-step approach.