The Customs and Border Protection department’s Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia — to which San Diego Border Patrol sector trainees are regularly dispatched for a high-tech education in all manner of shooting, hand-to-hand fighting, and investigative methods — has come in for a bad review by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office. Complete with pretend motel, sample border crossing checkpoint, and model airport baggage carousel, the center has cost taxpayers plenty, say the auditors. The latest criticism stems from a $55.7 million expansion undertaken in 2010 during the reign of Alan Bersin as Customs and Border Protection commissioner.
Nominated to the post by president Barack Obama in September 2009, Bersin had previously been Bill Clinton’s controversial U.S. Attorney here and later superintendent of San Diego city schools. After the Senate failed to confirm him to the customs job, Bersin got a so-called recess appointment from Obama, lasting only until the end of the congressional session in December 2011, when he was forced by law to step down. Obama’s head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano subsequently made Bersin assistant secretary of international affairs and chief diplomatic officer, a position he still occupies. The audit report, released this February, says the agency’s building effort, intended to include “a shower/locker room facility, contractor maintenance facility, dining facility, welcome and security center, and dormitory and conference center,” was badly bungled.
“None of the five buildings to be constructed,” says the document, “was completed within planned cost, schedule, and performance requirements. Three of the five buildings were completed about 10 months after the target completion date, and as of July 30, 2013, none was being used for its intended purpose.
“These delays resulted in increased labor costs, which contributed significantly to the $2.5 million (16.2 percent) in project cost overruns. Construction of the fourth building (contractor maintenance facility) was canceled because of agency funding constraints. Construction of the fifth and largest building (dormitory and conference center) was delayed for more than 3 years because of legal issues unrelated to CBP oversight.” Adds the report, “CBP procurement officials also approved millions of dollars worth of…contract modifications for labor cost increases and add-ons to the dormitory and conference center without the required supporting documentation.”