Lawmaker calls for tighter Northern border surveillance

The Homeland Security Department ought to install more ground and air radars along the U.S.-Canada border and boost the number of manned and unmanned aircraft patrols over the area, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) wrote to Senate colleagues this week.

Tester, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, is proposing a $50 million increase to the fiscal 2009 DHS budget for those purposes. He made the request in a March 31 letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

As a corollary, Tester suggests that Congress deny a White House request for $50 million for states implementing the Real ID Act of 2005 and transfer the funds to the northern border instead. Under Real ID, states must develop standardized driver's licenses and must share information on drivers with other states.

The $50 million for Real ID is a drop in the bucket compared to the states' actual expected cost of more than $4 billion, Tester said in a news release. Furthermore, he said, he opposes Real ID "because of its high cost, because it invades privacy, and because it amounts to a national ID system which makes sensitive personal information vulnerable to ID thieves."

Tester also urged the department to deploy 1,500 additional border patrol agents on the U.S.-Canada border that had been previously authorized.

"We need more boots on the ground and more eyes in the air to make sure the northern border is secure as possible," Tester said. "There's a lot of ground to cover up there, and we start by investing in the best technology and human resources possible."

"Every dollar we spend on wasteful Washington boondoggles like Real ID is a dollar we don't spend protecting our ports and borders," Tester said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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