The DHS inspector general has issued a “management alert” raising concerns about the executive security and logistics details at two subcomponents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, saying those details were established, staffed and funded “without clear legal authority.”

“Because these security details incur substantial monetary and personnel costs, provide transportation and logistical services not necessarily tied to any demonstrated security concern, and are often authorized by those receiving the services, these details give the appearance to some observers of being more related to executive convenience and status than protection,” it said, noting that its audit was prompted by a whistleblower complaint.

It said statutory authority exists for security details at DHS only for the Secretary, deputy and commandant of the Coast Guard—similar to authority in law for top officials of other agencies such as State and Justice. ICE and CBP instead relied on general authority to assign officers to perform any law enforcement-related duty when creating the security details in early 2014, the report said.

“Given that Congress has clearly provided for security details for some positions and not others, we do not believe that these general provisions authorize permanent security details comprised of special agents and a fleet of vehicles for the leadership of ICE or CBP in the absence of a showing of specific, credible threats to those executives,” it said.

It said the cost at CBP alone is estimated at $700,000 per year and that “both agencies have paid to acquire multiple SUVs or other vehicles of a similar nature to provide the protection details. Additionally, we found that there could be a significant drain on field office resources when a component head travels. This can lead to diversion of resources away from priority criminal enforcement, creating operational challenges and degrading morale.”