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McKinsey Statement on New York Times and ProPublica Article Regarding ICE and CBP

December 4, 2019The New York Times and ProPublica’s article on December 3, 2019 fundamentally misrepresents McKinsey’s work. It disregards facts that we provided before publication and misleads readers about both the substance and goals of our work. While we offered extensive on-the-record comments in response to more than a dozen questions, the story contains only the barest of statements from McKinsey and ignores many of the factual points that we presented.

As a firm, we are committed to supporting the United States’ legacy of welcoming immigrants. We believe that our firm, the United States and the global economy are strengthened by the mobility of diverse talent.

We take the impact of our work on society very seriously. It is therefore important to understand the facts behind this work and some of the assertions the article has made about it. Our work with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement was commissioned in 2015 and began in March of 2016 during the Obama administration. At the direction of career civil servants, we sought to address areas for organizational improvement that had long been recognized by several administrations and independent, nonpartisan evaluations. Our work for ICE concluded in June 2018.

The scope of work, which was established before the change in administration, focused on three areas:

  1. Strengthening hiring and recruitment processes: We helped ICE address long-recognized challenges the agency faced that spanned multiple administrations in recruiting, hiring, retention and leadership development. To illustrate the significance of these challenges: at the time McKinsey started this work, it took 350 to 529 days to hire law enforcement officers.
  2. Improving procurement practices and vendor relationships: We helped ICE identify areas where the agency was being overcharged by certain vendors relative to industry standards or to other comparable facilities. Our focus was on helping the agency improve its procurement strategy and negotiate better arrangements with vendors while maintaining or improving quality and safety.
  3. Improving operational effectiveness: We worked with ICE to assess its organizational structure and develop recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the practices of field agents and their supervisors.

The article’s foundational claim that our work was “redirected” by the new administration in 2017 is false. As we have stated previously, the scope and goals of our work did not change in any material way from when the project was defined during the prior administration.

The article supports this misleading claim with several further inaccuracies:

  • We did not recommend a reduction in the quality of food or healthcare for detainees. The article’s suggestion that we made such recommendations is wholly false. (Indeed, an ICE supervisor quoted in the article confirms that we sought to undertake the procurement work “without sacrificing quality, safety and mission.”)
  • The article falsely claims that our team “looked to cut costs by lowering standards at ICE detention facilities.” In fact, the focus of our procurement work was helping to negotiate better pricing with vendors when the agency was being overcharged. As the article acknowledges, our work was always aimed at reducing costs without sacrificing quality, safety and mission. This is consistent with the work that we and other professional services firms regularly provide to agencies throughout the US Government.

    Moreover, our work on procurement was directly responsive to recommendations from the DHS Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, which is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress to examine how taxpayer dollars are spent. Both the IG and GAO repeatedly raised concerns about wasteful and ineffective spending. At no point did our team recommend lowering standards in any way.
  • The article incorrectly states that “the firm was deeply involved in executing policies fundamental to the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.” This is untrue. The scope and goals of our work were established during the prior administration, and they did not change in any material way after the transition in administrations.
  • The article questions whether elements of our work “risked short-circuiting due-process protections for migrants.” Tellingly, the article offers no evidence for this claim – because it isn’t true. Our work related to removal was solely focused on making the process more efficient once a final legal determination was made regarding someone’s case. Our work did not affect the due process rights of anyone.

Finally, regarding our work for US Customs and Border Protection: The documents referenced in the article relate to our work helping the agency think through and draft a five-year strategy. McKinsey did not advise CBP on detentions, the border wall or other field operations. Our ongoing work for CBP focuses on improving administrative processes and CBP employees’ wellbeing.

At the heart of our public sector practice is a commitment to ensuring that the agencies of federal, state and local governments can operate efficiently and effectively. We do this by bringing leading management practices from both the private and public sector and being strictly non-partisan. Despite the article’s inaccurate suggestions to the contrary, our work has adhered to these principles.