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Homeland Security Releases Plan to Improve U.S.-Canada Border Defense

The Homeland Security Department on Tuesday issued a new plan for improving protections along the U.S. border with Canada as a means of countering threats including extremists aiming to attack the United States, the Washington Times reported (see GSN, Dec. 14, 2011).

The Northern Border Strategy is intended to promote data exchanges and assessment inside the department and with separate government agencies and to strengthen collaboration with Ottawa. The department said it would field new instruments and equipment to support bilateral border defense activities while also modernizing security systems along the 5,525-mile boundary line.

Homeland Security has not previously issued such a comprehensive document on improving the security of an area that Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) last year described as "grossly unprotected." 

The department described the U.S.-Canada border as the "single-greatest security threat" for violent militants looking to enter the United States.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the new strategy supplies a "unifying framework for ... enhancing the security and resiliency along our northern border while expediting legitimate travel and trade with Canada" (see GSN, June 1).

House Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.) said she was "encouraged" by the strategy but added that "more work needs to be done to understand the security challenges and gaps" (Chuck Neubauer, Washington Times, June 5).

The DHS document addresses three broad intentions for its operations along the U.S.-Canada border: "deter and prevent terrorism and other illegal activity; safeguard and facilitate the secure flow of lawful trade and travel; and ensure community resilience to natural and man-made disasters."

Toward those ends, the department also intends to collaborate with local, state, and tribal governments as well as commercial enterprises, according to a DHS release (U.S. Homeland Security Department release, June 5).

"Preventing a terrorist attack in the United States remains the cornerstone of homeland security, and the strategies and activities that DHS and its domestic and international partners employ to prevent terrorism are also utilized to prevent other illegal activity and vice versa, including smuggling drugs, bulk cash,  WMD/WME, human trafficking, and illegal immigration. We also focus these efforts on identifying, disrupting, and dismantling transnational terrorist and criminal organizations that seek to utilize the U.S. northern border as an avenue to conduct or attempt terrorist and illicit acts," the strategy states (U.S. Homeland Security Department report, June 5).

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