Napolitano requests update on northern border security

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has ordered an internal review and update on all departmental activities, programs and strategies for protecting the land border between the United States and Canada. Part of protecting that border includes using information technology systems.

The secretary issued a directive Jan. 23 that focuses on northern border strategy. An initial report is due by Feb. 10, and the final report is due by Feb. 17. The reports will cover current vulnerabilities, strategies for reducing vulnerabilities, requirements to carry out the strategies, and an overview of existing programs, budgets, timeframes and risks, Napolitano said in a news release.

“The northern border of the United States has become, since [Sept. 11, 2001], important to our national security,” the news release states. “As we have designed programs to afford greater protection against unlawful entry, members of Congress and homeland security experts have called for increased attention to the Canadian border.”

The northern border, which includes many remote and forested areas, is vulnerable to unauthorized entry by terrorists and others, according to investigations by the Government Accountability Office. The Customs and Border Protection agency’s activities include managing official entry points and surveillance of open areas.

Starting in February, CBP will begin its first surveillance flights over that border using Predator B unmanned aerial vehicles. The test flights will link aerial imagery and data with a network of marine and ground sensors and other technologies along the border.

The agency has been flying UAVs over the border with Mexico since 2005 but only recently obtained approval for doing so over the northern border.

In March 2008, CBP officials said they were refining a security strategy for the northern border and intended to demonstrate the integration of data from air, land and marine sources into a common operating picture for situational awareness. Congress allocated $20 million for a northern border security demonstration project.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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