Citing a need for increased security, newly appointed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Janet Napolitano has ordered a comprehensive review of security strategies along the northern border. Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, issued an action directive on January 23, just days after being sworn into office. The directive will require various DHS agencies along the northern border to review existing strategies and security efforts here.
The announcement comes after the General Accountability Office (GAO) issued a November 2008 report that determined that DHS could do a better job informing Congress by identifying actions, resources and time frames needed to address border vulnerabilities. “The northern border of the United States has become, since September 11, 2001, important to our national security,” Napolitano said in a written statement. “This continuing evaluation will unify our shared efforts and help me assess where improvements need to be made.”
The U.S.-Canadian border covers nearly 4,000 miles of land and water from Washington to Maine, and is the longest undefended border in the world. The Blaine Peace Arch port of entry is the third busiest border crossing on the northern border, with 2,844,117 vehicles entering between October 2007 and September 2008.
Various agencies share responsibility for northern border security. Those primarily include U.S. Customs and Border Protection, (CBP) the U.S. Coast Guard but also include several state, local, tribal, and Canadian agencies.
The agencies were given a deadline to report back orally by February 10, with a final report due February 17.
The GAO report asserted that a DHS February 2008 report to Congress was not fully responsive to legislative requirements in providing information for improving northern border security.
“In particular, DHS ... did not include recommendations and additional resources that are needed to protect the northern border,” the report stated.
The report added that DHS has implemented 11 GAO recommendations designed to improve border security, but 39 recommendations that would make better use of air and marine assets and improve screening processes at the ports of entry and the use of nuclear detection equipment are yet to be fully implemented.
While DHS officials routinely stress the threat of terrorism on the northern border, America’s 1,900-mile southern border remains plagued with problems. The New York Times reported Monday that despite huge enforcement actions on both sides of the southwest border, the Mexican marijuana trade is more “robust – and brazen – than ever” with Mexican drug cartels routinely hauling industrial-sized loads of marijuana, excavating tunnels and planting marijuana crops inside the U.S. as far north as the vineyards of Washington state.