Secretary Chertoff and his Mexican counterpart, Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo, Secretary of the Interior, signed a binding agreement between the U.S. and Mexico on science and technology related to homeland security. The signing took place at last week’s annual North American Leaders Summit in New Orleans. President Bush and the leaders of Canada and Mexico also attended.
The DHS S&T Directorate is responsible for executing on the agreement, which was described as focusing on cross-border cooperation, information sharing, research and development, test and evaluation, pilot projects, and vulnerability and risk assessments.
Readers may recall the posts here about missed opportunities for greater international coordination in combating terrorism by way of strategic relationships based on a common interest in protecting civilians. Well, I have to say that I was overly focused on Europe, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean regions to even think of Mexico as a potential partner in this regard. Or maybe I’ve watched too much Lou Dobbs.
This agreement is being vaunted as a framework to enhance scientific and technical understanding for the benefit of both countries. Its mission-area focuses include maritime security, counter-explosives equipment, the detection of infectious diseases, travel and trade security, and the protection of critical infrastructure. Not much is ruled out.
This will get the bizarre and misguided Minute Men and Mr. Dobbs talking: The agreement allows the sharing of classified information between Mexico and the United States and can be used across the federal government. The professionals in the intel community and law enforcement know the limits in this regard. As analysts become more proficient at writing to the tear line and open-source material becomes more instrumental in identifying and assessing risks, this type of information sharing only makes sense.
Models for this exist with long-time near-peer allies like the UK, Canada, and Australia. But Mexico is a different case altogether. That the focus is first on science and technology is worth pointing out. This effort is also intended to build the capacity of our Mexican partners so that better coordination can take place. S&T is not only less polarizing than building a wall, its also far and away a wiser investment for the long-term: We gain improved Mexican cooperation and capabilities.
Below the radar, similar efforts are taking place through non-government channels to engage countries such as Iran, Israel, and Palestine on the basis of science and technology. From what I can tell so far, this is time, expertise, and money well spent.