Matt York/AP

Over the past two fiscal years, Customs and Border Protection – CBP – drones helped nab less than 3 percent of the drugs seized by agents in the few sectors where they were used, according to CBP’s own figures.

By comparison, since this fiscal year began on Oct. 1, manned aircraft have accounted for more than 99 percent of weapons, cash and meth seizures, 95 percent of cocaine seizures, and 89 percent of marijuana seizures in which aerial assets were involved, according to CBP data.

To CBP, drug seizures “are not an appropriate performance measure,” spokesman Carlos Lazo said, noting that the drones “detect illegal cross-border activity … on a daily basis.”

For budget reasons, the drones don’t fly every day.

In theory, CBP’s $600 million-and-counting drone program is intended to help close the gaps through which smugglers move people and drugs across the border.

“The problem,” Sutherland said, “is that we can’t usually say we apprehended or stopped a group. All we can say is we detected them.”

But the cost-effectiveness of the drones repeatedly has come under fire from by government auditors. Most recently, in January, a critique by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General said — not for the first time— that the drones cost too much and catch too little. Inspectors recommended that, rather than buy any more drones, CBP look for better alternatives…

The Predator B drone and its marine variant, the Guardian, are made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., of Poway, Calif., an affiliate of General Atomics.

General Atomics and GAAS spent nearly $2.4 million lobbying in 2005, when they won their first CBP contract, according to disclosure forms filed with the government. Since then, the two affiliates have spent more than $23 million more on lobbying, while winning sole-source, non-competitive contracts in 2007 and 2012. Officials at GAAS declined to be interviewed.

More pages of info on cost-savings alternatives in the article.

I wonder whether this body of fact will count for more in the mind of our elected Congress-critters than the size of the campaign donations offered by lobbyists from firms heavily into selling us drones, eh?



  1. morey says:

    Here are 12 of the most active sellers of drones. Bet at least 11 are trying to sell to Uncle Sugar.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/12-companies-will-conquer-drone-market-2014-2015-1534360

  2. NewFormatSux says:

    Bad logic in this article, no wonder Eiditor posted it.

    That is not 3% vs 99%. Look at the wording. Drones are 3% of all seizures for the where they were posted. Manned is % of aerial, not all.

    For example it could be that drones were used in 10 out of 1000 sectors, where they accounted for 3% of the total.
    Aerial is 99%(or 89%) of not the total portion but the air portion.
    So if they used the aerial in the other 990 sectors, they could
    they could be just 3% of the total seized, and you would have the same 99% ratio, even though they are equally effective. In fact if drones are being used in areas that are not particularly drug prone, then the aerial portion could be worse than the drones, and you would still get the same numbers.

  3. bobbo, in point of fact says:

    Its a waste and a distraction.

    Drugs should be legal…so thats a TOTALLY wasted effort.

    Stopping illegal immigration is “easy”: raid the employers and fine them. Most people will in fact then, but only then, self-deport…… except for the Criminals. ……… Maybe we should elect Trump?

    • NewFormatSux says:

      The criminals are being actively released rather than deported.

      And the government is running ads in Mexico inviting illegals who left to come back.

    • Enough already says:

      I don’t want to see Trump elected, BUT…

      I hope he uses his wealth to neutralize Hiliary and expose her for the disingenuous 0.1% she is.

      It’s time for the Clinton and Bush dynasties to permanently retire from politics.

  4. iDohno says:

    CBP’s drone program is “intended to help close the gaps”. 1 to 3% is a gap. Hats off to this excellent program for attaining their goals.

  5. Makes No Cents says:

    Is there ANY program the government doesn’t waste money on?

    Government run = guaranteed waste

    Once born, government programs never die. And they always, always ask for more funding.

    “Cutting back” means not asking for a bigger percentage increase than last year.


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