Watch CBS News

Homeland Security drone program not justifying expense, says study

Report slams Homeland Security's border drone program 02:15

One issue that will be getting a lot of attention from the new Congress is border security. Members won't be happy when they read a report that came out today which raises serious questions about how taxpayer money is being spent on the border.

With 7,000 miles of U.S. land to patrol increasingly, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is relying on drones to help arrest illegal immigrants.

But a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's report raises questions about whether the program is worth it. In 2013, it accounted for 2,200 arrests. There are 10 drones flying in the program at a cost of $62 million a year.

A new report says the Border Patrol's drone program is not pulling its weight. CBS News

"So if you do the math on that, it's about $27,000 per apprehension which seems like a lot of money," said John Roth, DHS Inspector General. "So I think Customs and Border Protection has a lot of work to do to increase the effectiveness of the program."

Over the last ten years, this unmanned "Eye in the Sky" program has cost nearly $500 million and it's getting an additional $443 million in funding. DHS expected 23,000 total flight hours per year, but it has only logged about 5,100. It has claimed that the drones would operate along the entire southwest border, but according to the Inspector General, they did not.

Armed predator drones have been used on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here along the U.S. border, predators are used "strictly" for surveillance.

Customs and Border Protection says it disagrees with the report's portrayal of the Unmanned Aircraft System program. Last year, agency officials say UAS missions contributed to the seizure of nearly $253 million worth of cocaine and marijuana. They also led to weapons seizures, arrests and the detection of nearly 8,000 suspected illegal immigrants.

Customs and Border Protection says it is not planning an expansion of the program at the moment and plans on purchasing one additional drone. Right now there are only nine. A tenth drone was ditched of the California coast a year ago.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.