Emergence Alumna Making a Difference: Improving CBP Communication Using Microsoft Teams

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent and CHDS Emergence Alum Vanessa Jazo

U.S. Customs and Border Protection border patrol agent Vanessa Jazo realized for years that critical intelligence and other information was not getting from upper management to the rank-and-file border agents who needed it to help inform their work, and there was a lack of communication in general between agents. 

That came into focus when Jazo was temporarily working as a supervisor at her Ajo Station in the Tucson, AZ, sector and realized how much more information border patrol management was getting that her fellow border patrol agents never did. 

As an example, Jazo said a border patrol agent was following a group of illegal migrants in the Arizona desert in December 2020, when he was stopped by a couple of mountain lions and had to shoot one to protect himself. Jazo said she realized that no one except management would have known about the incident and the presence of another mountain lion unless they were working that day or knew the agent involved. 

A couple of months later, an attempted assault on a supervisory border patrol agent was only reported during one of three musters the following day. 

In addition, Jazo said the lack of communication on illegal drug and trafficking activity can leave border patrol agents in the field vulnerable to drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations. 

So, Jazo (Emergence cohort 2002) decided to make improved communication using Microsoft Teams the focus of her Center for Homeland Defense and Security Emergence change initiative. 

Entitled “Centralized Location for Communication,” Jazo’s Emergence change initiative argued that Microsoft Teams is a system accessible on all U.S. government devices and would be a “great central location where all information could be shared.” 

She pointed out that neither U.S. Customs and Border Protection nor Border Patrol have an established policy on information reporting and sharing, and every station is “left to their own devices when it comes to dispersal of important information.” 

“With emerging technology and methods of communication, there needs to be a more effective communication strategy,” Jazo said. “Emails, getting sporadic information at muster, hearing things from colleagues, social media, or the media isn’t sufficient.” 

She noted that U.S. Border Patrol is already transitioning to using Microsoft Teams for meetings, and both headquarters and the Tucson sector are using the program as a main source of communication. 

And other organizations including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross are doing the same thing. 

Jazo pointed out that Microsoft segregates government customers from the rest of its customers to meet federal security requirements. Jazo recommended that all agents should be logging into Microsoft Teams regularly on their assigned government phone or computer to “check what’s happening within Ajo’s area of responsibility.”  

According to Jazo, when she presented her change initiative to her station’s border patrol agent in charge, he was already aware of the communication gap, but “had no idea how big” it was. 

Her Emergence change initiative solution is already in progress, she said. 

Meanwhile, Jazo praised the CHDS Emergence program for guiding her efforts. 

“The biggest thing I took from (Emergence) is to be an active listener,” she said. “I would never have known how to do a change initiative. I learned a lot.”

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment | hissvora@nps.edu, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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