Building smarter borders

The Bush strategy for homeland security includes "smart borders," an idea that will drastically change the way U.S. borders — land, sea and air — will be managed for people and goods entering and leaving the United States.

The administration envisions a layered management system that enables a better screening system for vehicles, people and goods. It will require more technology to screen out potential terrorists and their weapons.

And it won't be a moment too soon, according to George Weise, the former Customs Service Commissioner (1993-97) who is now vice president of global trade compliance at Vastera, a global technology solutions company.

He says there is little interaction between computer systems at Customs, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Transportation Security Agency and others. And a reorganization would help this kind of coordination.

"There is no way, however, that any one agency can have the depth and breadth of expertise to make the final determination of admissibility, but with the proper coordination, a single agency like Customs, with appropriate interaction and coordination with the other agencies, can make admissibility determinations across a wide range of issues," Weise said.

Like others involved in evaluating plans to protect the United States, Weise said it's essential to put Customs inspectors on foreign soil to inspect cargo before it is shipped to the United States.

"Placing U.S. Customs inspectors overseas can help focus attention on the need to examine cargo before it departs for the U.S., but also could put a real strain on Customs resources unless Customs' budgets are expanded," Weise said.

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