They are supposed to be on the same team, but the turf wars inside the Department of Homeland Security show that two big agencies aren't pulling together:
* Immigration and Customs Enforcement decided not to open a probe into a possible financial crimes case because Customs and Border Protection had taken credit for money that was seized.
* After the arrests of several illegal immigrants and the seizure of illegal narcotics, Border Protection inspectors did not refer the case to ICE for prosecution but to local police.
* ICE investigators said a search warrant would be needed before agents entered a hotel room being used by suspected smugglers of immigrants. Border Patrol agents got the hotel manager to open the room. The case was never prosecuted because the evidence was not admissible.
The cases, and several other troubling tales, are part of a report scheduled for release Tuesday that shows that Homeland Security's field operations are plagued by distrust and lack of coordination.
The report, from Richard L. Skinner, inspector general for the department, recommends that Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, merge CBP and ICE to create "a stronger and more complete border security program."
Skinner's investigators conducted more than 300 interviews involving more than 600 employees in 10 cities and 63 field offices. The portrait drawn from the interviews depicts a Washington headquarters that has been slow to resolve conflicts and ineffective in getting field operations in sync.
"We encountered bitter and vocal frustration from many DHS employees over basic questions, such as mission confusion, operational frustration . . . and a skepticism over whether DHS leadership was attentively engaged in finding answers for them," the report said.
Field employees "communicated a high degree of frustration with the current structure," the report said. "We observed antagonism between CPB and ICE that appears to be increasing and solidifying."
CPB and ICE account for half of the department's 180,000 employees, and the two agencies are vital to Bush administration plans to secure borders and deter terrorist attacks.
The agencies were formed out of the old Customs Service and the old Immigration and Naturalization Service. In the reorganization, the responsibility for customs and immigration enforcement was spread across the two agencies. CBP got the Border Patrol and the combined responsibilities that the Customs Service and INS had at ports of entry. ICE got the combined investigative and intelligence functions and the INS detention and deportation responsibilities.
In this new bureaucratic world, the IG report said, enforcement efforts started by CBP now have to be completed by ICE. Border Patrol agents now rely on ICE to detain and deport illegal immigrants.
But CPB and ICE never got off on the right foot. "Shortfalls in operational coordination and information sharing have fostered an environment of uncertainty and mistrust between CBP and ICE personnel," the report said. "Where collegial interactions should characterize relations between employees of the two organizations, we have been told of competition and, sometimes, interference."
The 161-page report from Skinner is the most recent criticism of the Homeland Security reorganization. Last year, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Heritage Foundation recommended the merger of CBP and ICE. After a January hearing on Heritage's ideas, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked Skinner for a probe.
Chertoff opted against merging CBP and ICE in July when he revamped some Homeland Security operations. In a response accompanying the report, Michael P. Jackson, Chertoff's deputy, said the report "lacks analytic rigor, and it is tainted by factual errors." Skinner's investigators defend their methodology.
Collins and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) said in a statement that they take Skinner's report seriously. Collins said she is willing to give Chertoff more time to make changes in CBP and ICE but added that the committee may consider legislation next year to merge the bureaus.
Skinner's report, she said, verifies what others have said -- "these two agencies are dysfunctional in their current structure."