Sen. Carl Levin has an editorial in the Port Huron (MI) Times-Herald this weekend on northern border security, which provides a concise progress report on efforts in the last few years:
On Sept. 11, 2001, there were less than 400 Border Patrol agents assigned to the northern border compared to more than 8,000 along the southern border. Put another way, more than 20 times as many agents on the southern border were covering less than half the distance as the northern border.
Fortunately, we have made some progress in the last few years. There are now more than 1,000 northern border patrol agents, including a large increase in southeastern Michigan. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has recommended Southeast Michigan as the new home of a Northern Border Air Wing, an initiative launched by the Department of Homeland Security in 2004 to improve northern border security.
We still have more to do. We need to address the unique challenges our first responders face in communicating in the event of a large-scale disaster or terrorist attack. Our first responders need open communication not only with federal, state and local entities but also with their Canadian counterparts.
I think it’s correct to say that there is more to do, and I agree that efforts to develop collaboration and interoperability with Canadian law enforcement can be very effective, if implemented in a way that gives all parties the incentive to cooperate. Certainly, these efforts still need work: a recent Canadian audit report, mentioned in this post, questioned the current effectiveness of US-Canadian Integrated Border Enforcement Teams. Nevertheless, I think that these types of nuanced efforts are a better investment at the northern border today than enhanced physical security measures, such as building a US-Canada border fence: an idea put forward in the House border bill that I described last month as “loonie-cy.”