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Who Is Securing the Texas Border? How Private Contractors Mislead the Public, Then Get Rich Off Taxpayer Money

Private contractors have taken over Texas border security operations, but are falsely identifying themselves as affiliates of state programs.
 
 
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Roy “Mac” Sikes wasn’t wearing a white 10-gallon like the other top Texas Rangers attending the 2010 Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition meeting in El Paso. Mac, as the Texas Rangers and sheriffs call him, was going hatless. But that may have been because it’s not entirely clear which hat Mac should have been wearing – ranger, cop, or consultant? 

Since 2006 many of the key figures in state-led border security operations and information campaigns have identified themselves as DPS employees or part of the Texas Rangers to the public, policy community and the media, disguising their true identities.

The business card he handed me during the sheriffs meeting identified Sikes as the director of the Border Security Operations Center (BSOC) – which is a type of fusion center for border-security operations in Texas. It’s a project of the Texas Rangers Division, which in turn is a branch of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

However, Mac Sikes is neither a Texas Ranger nor a DPS employee. Like most of the other key figures behind the Lone Star State’s border security campaign, Sikes is a contract employee.

A “senior operational analyst” at Abrams Learning & Information Systems (ALIS), Sikes became director of BSOC as part of the firm’s $3-5 million annual contracts with DPS since 2006. The recent DPS decision -- in response to a public records request -- to release the ALIS contract revealed the true identity of Sikes.  

The Border Security Operations Center is the nexus of the Texas’ own border security initiatives, collectively known as Operation Border Star. ALIS, a homeland-security consulting firm with offices in Arlington, Virginia, was founded in 2004 by Ret. Army Gen. John Abrams to cash in on the billions of dollars in new government contracting funds that started to flow after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

Since 2006 ALIS functioned as the hidden force behind virtually all non-federal border-security operations in Texas. Whether it’s strategy formulation, border crime-mapping, operations management, or public relations, ALIS and its team of consultants have been closely involved in creating what Governor Rick Perry calls the “Texas model of border security.”

ALIS, which has received $22.7 million from DPS and the Governor’s Office for border-security operations in FY 2007-FY 2011, describes its mission in Texas as follows:

ALIS was commissioned to improve border security strategy and operations 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. 

Gov. Rick Perry has boasted to both President Obama and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that Texas has created a new model for border security. In a letter to the president, Perry hailed his state’s “proven and successful multi-agency border security strategy,” while the governor invited Napolitano to visit the Texas border to see the “Texas model of border security.” DPS Director Steven McCraw, who was appointed by Perry and also served as the governor’s homeland security director from 2003 to early 2012, says that Texas is creating its own “paradigm” of border security.

Perry and McCraw support an aggressive, militarized border security strategy. They claim that Operation Border Star – their name for the Texas model or paradigm – is succeeding in securing the Texas border whereas the Obama administration’s border-security operations are, they charge, a manifest failure.

That’s a claim that was highlighted in a September 2011 report on border security commissioned by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The report,  Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment, was written by Gen. Robert Scales (ret.) and Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who have their own Washington Beltway consulting firms, Colgen and BR McCaffrey Associates.