Out of all of the stupid ideas and rhetoric that make up the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, one thing stands out — Trump’s ideas for border security. It has become a standard line for him to proclaim at campaign stops that “we’re gonna build that wall.” When he follows that with “Who’s gonna pay for it?” crowds respond with gusto, “MEXICO!” But if you think that Trump’s idea for a 50 foot high wall that stretches for almost 2,000 miles across the Mexican border is crazy, wait until you hear the latest.
Trump is campaigning in New York in advance of the April 19 primary. In a phone interview with Syracuse.com before a visit to the city on Saturday, Trump said that he would like to expand drone surveillance on the border. And not just on that 2,000 mile Mexican border. Trump says we should monitor the 5,500 mile Canadian border with drones as well.
Predator drones are already being used in a limited manner on the Mexican border. A fact sheet on drones produced by the office of Congressman Raul Grijalva says that each drone costs as much as $3,500 per hour to operate, and requires an hour of maintenance for each hour in the air.
According to a January 2015 Fox News report, the results of the drone program have been less than impressive, and the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security recommended against a planned $443 million expansion. DHS Inspector General John Roth wrote,
Notwithstanding the significant investment, we see no evidence that the drones contribute to a more secure border, and there is no reason to invest additional taxpayer funds at this time. Securing our borders is a crucial mission for CBP and DHS. CBP’s drone program has so far fallen far short of being an asset to that effort.
The inspector general’s report found that in fiscal 2013 the actual cost of operating the drones far exceeded the cost estimate provided by Customs and Border Protection, and echoed in Congressman Grijalva’s fact sheet. Instead of $3,500 per hour, the report says that the actual cost of the drones was some $12,255 per hour.
In addition, the drones were in the air for less than a quarter of the time CBP intended them to be. They were hampered by issues with weather, a lack of spare parts, and not enough personnel to operate the planned four 16-hour missions per day.
And now Trump wants to put the program on steroids, expanding it to cover the Canadian border. Let’s “make America great again” by dumping more money into a failed program. As Labor Secretary Thomas Perez recently observed, “It’s no wonder his name rhymes with ‘dump.’ Because he’s really full of you-know-what.”
Here’s a 2014 report from Bloomberg News about the technology being used on the Mexican border. Note that not even the men and women responsible for border protection are willing to say whether they think the program is cost-effective:
Featured image via Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images