by Glenn Spencer -- September 20, 2009
I worked my way through college working at Rocketdyne, the company that built the first, second and third stages of the moon rocket. I was very young, married with a baby and a second soon to arrive.
I worked in the Engine Analysis Section of the engineering department of Rocketdyne. We analyzed rocket engine test data to see where improvements were needed. I learned how to program computers to process rocket test data.
At one point I worked with physical chemist Dr. Eugene Tkachenko on a very complex program to study the thermodynamic characteristics of liquid sodium. Liquid sodium was being considered as a coolant for an atomic reactor that might be used to send men to Mars. We were in a race to the moon and some people in Washington thought we might have to go to Mars if the Russians got to the moon first. No kidding.
I was also on the analytical team that worked to solve the problem of combustion instability of the F-1 rocket engine. Five of these 1.5 million pound thrust monsters were to push the Apollo astronauts off the launch pad, but they were exploding. I did the vector computer graphics that helped us understand what was happening in the combustion chamber. Injection baffles solved the problem.
To finish college I needed to start attending day classes. Rocketdyne arranged to transfer me to the engine test facility at Santa Susanna where night work was available. (They had no second shift in the Engineering Department at Canoga Park.) On the day I was to leave they had a going away luncheon for me. Arriving back at the office I was told that I wasn't leaving the engineering department after all because management had set up a special second shift for me to do computer work beginning at 2:30 p.m. and ending at 11:00 p.m. This allowed me to attend day classes while working full-time. Classes started at 8 a.m. and I finished work at 11:00 p.m. I did this for two years. My wife did not work, but attended classes as well. (I had no student loans or other government help - I did it all myself)
By the time I graduated with degrees in economics and mathematics I had four years of experience in computer programming and high grades in mathematical statistics.
After graduation I was recruited by small Sherman Oaks think tank where I went on to develop large-scale computer simulation models of complex systems. I spent seven years in systems engineering working with some very smart people. My team included a summa cum laude graduate in mathematics from UCLA (Jim Howard) and an engineering graduate from Harvard (Hyman Kolkowitz). They worked for me.
My work in large systems analysis led to a brief assignment with a small team of analysts to perform an independent review of the war in Southeast Asia. This was done under Col. Edwin Triner, USAF, of the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group (WSEG), Joint Chiefs of Staff. I worked in the Pentagon. Our analysis led us to ask questions about the overall goals of the war and what data were available to evaluate progress. We learned there was a great deal of military data, but not much that related to the goals of the war except things like the Hamlet Evaluation System in the State Department.
In developing computer models and doing systems engineering I learned that in order to properly design a system one first had to know its objectives and how to measure performance. The computer program needed a bottom line. It wouldn't work without one.
Working alongside McNamara's "whiz kids" I learned that systems must not be designed by how something is done (means orientation), but the objective of the system (requirements orientation).
After leaving Washington, D.C. my career took many turns. My last major job in the 80s was as Vice President, General Manager and half-owner of Arrowstar, Inc., a seismic oil exploration company with clients that included Chevron, Arco and Texaco. It was very successful in finding oil and making money.
Focus on Illegal Immigration
In 1992 I decided to retire and devote myself full-time to the problem of illegal immigration. I spent the next ten years working with others to try to solve the problem in California. We had some wins, most notably Proposition 187, but for the most part, as with Proposition 187, the California liberal establishment always figured out a way to defeat us.
Move to Border
In 2002 I decided to leave California and move to Arizona and focus on the border. My thinking was that a good general picks his battlefield, and, as this was to be my last battle, I needed a good one.
The border problem, I thought, was fairly simple: "Here is the law, here is the line – what is the problem?" Besides, all of the arguments used to fight immigration law enforcement – You can't kick a kid out of school – You can't deny someone health care – The man is only working to feed his children — didn't apply at the border.
I formulated my plan for the border based largely on Muriel Watson's Light Up the Border campaign. Muriel had used the lights of automobiles to show illegal aliens flooding across the border south of San Diego. This led to the construction of the San Diego border fence.
I asked Muriel what she thought of using the Internet to "light up the border." She said, "That's a good idea." Thus was born American Border Patrol.
American Border Patrol
American Border Patrol, ABP, was started in Sierra Vista, Arizona in June of 2002. It was set up as a 501 c (3) non-profit corporation. The board of directors included Ron Sanders, recently retired Chief of the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol and Bill King, the man who ran the 1986 amnesty program, and a former Chief Border Patrol Agent himself.
I produced a video called "The American Border Patrol Story" and put it online. It showed how we planned to use things like the Internet and unmanned aerial vehicles to bring the truth about the border to the American people. It helped recruit some young technical talent who joined me in November of 2002.
For the next three years ABP did some miraculous stuff, including sending live video of border crossers out over the Internet – and at night. We developed our own unmanned aerial vehicle and flew it to spot border crossers – and it at night! And we did a lot more. (A chronological list of activities can be found here)
Border Patrol Management Problems
It didn't take long for me to realize, however, that the Border Patrol had a real problem. Try as I might, I could find not find where it had set measurable goals and objectives. Everyone knew that their job was to stop illegal immigration, but no one knew how much there really was.
There is an axiom of systems management; If you can't measure it, you can't improve it. I began to think that maybe the government didn't want to count illegal border crossers because it didn't really want to stop them.
On June 3, 2004 I appeared on Lou Dobbs Tonight and said, "This system is designed to fail without the American people knowing it."
Over the next four years I repeated this claim. (Search AmericanPatrol.com site for ‘designed to fail' for a complete list)
On March 20, 2005 I proposed the development of a computer model of Border Patrol Operations: "To do so would require that they adopt a figure of merit a public statement of the goal of the Border Patrol," I said.
In early 2006, I produced a video: The U.S. Border Patrol, How It Works, and Why it Doesn't. Once again, I called on the government to set measurable goals for the Border Patrol.
Strategic Border Initiative SBI
In early 2006, DHS went public with its Strategic Border Initiative SBI and SBInet, a virtual fence concept.
After four years of frustration over government's failure to manage the border problem, I exploded. I called the SBI the Strategic Bullsh*t Initiative. I said, "Nowhere does SBI spell out a goal that can be measured. This is all of the same nonsense we have seen for years. The program will be run by open borders people at DHS/CBP and will accomplish absolutely nothing except lull the people into a false sense of security."
It turns out I was right. (Boeing virtual fence: $30 billion failure – ZDNet )
The issue of border control ratcheted up with the signing of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. Besides requiring the construction of 700 miles of double-layered border fence, the act mandated a systematic evaluation of the effort.
Words from the Secure Fence Act of 2006
"Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act and annually thereafter, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on the progress made toward achieving and maintaining operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States in accordance with this section."
Operational Control Defined
In this section, the term 'operational control' means the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband."
Did DHS Report?
Not only did the DHS not report, a recent report from the Governmental Accountability Office points to the failure of DHS to measure its progress as the main reason for failure of border enforcement.
(See: Secure Border Initiative: Technology Deployment Delays Persist and the Impact of Border Fencing Has Not Been Assessed). "For all the money spent, the department has not set up a way to evaluate the fences' impact, relying mainly on the judgment of senior Border Patrol agents," the New York Times reported.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Richard Stana of the GAO has been calling on the DHS to measure progress on the border since 2003.
It isn't as if DHS runs around with no plan at all. They do have a plan.
In January of 2006, the acting director of the SBInet project said the goal of the system was to "Gain, maintain and expand." He didn't exactly say what. He went on to say you do this by doing three things
Detect – Identify/Classify/Respond
(I go into detail on this thinking here) -- DHS used this brilliant logic to focus on developing a COP – Common Operating Picture. This involves the use of radars, computers, and all sorts of neat devices designed to keep Border Patrol agents informed.
This is what we call a means orientation – focusing on how to do something without regard to the real mission; in this case stopping illegal immigration.
Measuring the effectiveness of border enforcement is not rocket science. (I used to do rocket science.) The Secure Fence Act of 2006 said the objective of DHS is the "prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States."
A measure of how well the DHS is doing is how many persons enter the U.S. illegally. If one counted everyone who crossed the border illegally and subtracted those who were apprehended by the Border Patrol, the result would be a measure of how well the Border Patrol is doing.
It is not realistic to expect the Border Patrol to stop every single person, but a realistic goal could be set. I suggested a goal of no more than 20,000 people crossing the border successfully.
The first step in this process is to actually count the number of people entering illegally. For the past couple of years bordeinvasionpics.com has been counting people on trails entering the U.S. using remote game cameras. Also, American Border Patrol counted hundreds of illegal border crossers using its border cameras.
Counting Border Crossers
There is no doubt that DHS has the technology and resources to count the number of people crossing the border. After all, they cross in plain sight.
DHS could mount hidden cameras on all of its border fences dedicated to just counting crossers. It could place hidden cameras on all of the trails leading into the U.S. for the same purpose. It could use its Predator B unmanned aerial systems to perform thermal photos surveys. And there are plenty of other ways they could come up with a pretty good count of border crossers. All that would be left, then, is to subtract the number they apprehend and there you have it.
The history of the DHS tells me that they will not even try to count border crossers. They do not want us to know how well they are doing so they will probably come up with some lame excuse as to why they can't. Pushed further they would probably agree to try to do it and then take ten years to reach a conclusion that they failed.
Operation Plain Sight
It is time for us to take matters into our own hands. It is time for American to do what our government refuses to do – count the border crossers.
On October 15, American Border Patrol will launch Operation Plain Sight. The purpose will be to show how it is possible to count the number of people who cross our borders illegally. It will involve using the technology it has developed over the past seven years, and more. It will involve volunteers along the border, including pilots. It will involve placing remote cameras. It will involve volunteer "spotters" who will stand watch at key locations. It will involve using aircraft such as ABP's new Challenger II to catch people at night.
The goal of Operation Plain Sight is not to count everyone who crosses the border. The goal is to show that it is possible and that the DHS could do it if it was forced to.
In 2004 American Border Patrol demonstrated how unmanned aerial vehicles could be use along the border. This prompted the Border Patrol to purchase its own UAVs. In 2005 ABP demonstrated the use of border cams to spot illegals. The State of Texas adopted the idea.
We believe that Operation Plain Sight is doable. We hope others agree and join in on the effort.