A tale of two borders

Border security strategies vary in north and south

The United States' strategy for securing its border with Canada primarily will focus on using technology, while the Homeland Security Department's strategy for securing the southern border also includes hundreds of miles of fencing, DHS' top official said.

Earlier this week DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff told senators on the Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, "We are going to have technology on the northern border, but it's going to be a different array than what we have at the southern border," he said.

"We currently have a combination of infrared seismic sensors which are in the ground, remote and local video surveillance systems, and then of course at the ports of entry we have radiation monitoring devices," Chertoff said.

He said that there are plans to have an unmanned aerial system at the northern border for surveying.

Although migrant workers aren't sneaking across the Canadian border in large numbers to look for jobs, there are concerns about drug smuggling originating in Canada, he said.

At the hearing Chertoff argued with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) about the value of having checkpoints inside the United States rather than at the border. Those checkpoints could help catch people who may have already made it across, Chertoff said. Leahy said that along Vermont's border the secondary checkpoints could easily be avoided.

"Come up and take a ride with me in Vermont and I'll show you how easy it is to just avoid" the checkpoints, Leahy told Chertoff.

Chertoff said that Customs and Border Protection officers told him that the checkpoints served as an additional level of protection.

Much of the attention on CBP's efforts under its multibillion-dollar, multiyear effort to secure the U.S. borders so far has focused on the beleaguered Project 28 prototype for using a mix of technology to secure a 28-mile stretch in Arizona. DHS accepted the project last month after months of delays, but has said that it plans to replace much of the equipment developed in Project 28 with more advanced technology that is being developed under another SBInet task order expected to be completed later this year.

Ben Bain writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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