The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) held an event that I attended earlier today which looked at the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). The event focused primarily on the US-Canada border, and examined the challenges associated with delivering the security imperatives of WHTI while at the same time preserving and facilitating the movement of people across borders and accounting for the geographic heterogeneity of the border environment.
I don’t have the time or wherewithal to write up a full summary, but below are a few newsworthy and/or interesting comments from the event:
- Paul Rosenzweig from the DHS Policy Office mentioned something that has been speculated but I haven’t seen the government confirm: that the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database gets more positive ‘hits’ at the US-Canada border than at the US-Mexico border.
- The State Department and DHS intend to release the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the land portion of WHTI in the first quarter of calendar year 2007. The Departments intend to then implement this land rule as quickly as possible, and not wait until the new deadline of June 2009.
- Frank Moss from the Department of State mentioned a statistic that I hadn’t heard previously, but which makes sense: that 48% of the crossings at the US-Canada border each year are done by 2% of the total population of border crossers (about 500,000 people) – in essence, people who regularly cross the border for work, school, family visits, or shopping trips. But another speaker noted that only about 25% of these 500,000 are enrolled in the NEXUS frequent traveler program right now.
- The issue of REAL ID came up frequently throughout the morning’s discussions, in terms of its potential linkages to WHTI, and forthcoming activity on REAL ID. Alan Snyder from the Office of Rep. Louise Slaughter noted that initial REAL ID regulations are likely to be released in December, and that there was “not a lot of enthusiasm” for REAL ID among the incoming leadership of the House – a comment that could foreshadow changes to laws regarding its mandates.
Overall, it was a very interesting event. C-Span was there, so you’ll perhaps be able to catch reruns over Thanksgiving weekend (but hopefully you have better things to do). And I’ll amend this post if/when there are any news stories that emanate from the event.
Update (11/21): GovExec reports on the event.