It has taken almost a decade for a post 9/11-version of a secure Trusted Traveler program to become official, but Monday’s publication of the final rule establishing Global Entry as an official program marks a signal achievement for DHS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). With over 300,000 applications in place, over 1.8 million individual trips handled, and over tens of thousands of CBP man and woman-hours saved, Global Entry deserves the praise it got from the President on his visit to Disney last month. Global Entry is not only a good idea – it is an essential part of CBP’s strategy to handle increased traffic flows in an era of tight budgets.
Ports and Borders
January 26th, 2012 - by Edward Alden
The U.S. visa system is still not effectively focusing resources on those who pose a threat to our country. More than a decade after 9/11, foreign tourists, business travelers, students, and temporary workers presenting low security risks face the same cumbersome and unpredictable procedural hurdles as high-risk applicants. Despite commendable efforts by the State Department to speed up visa issuance, only modest progress has been made in translating the tremendous technological advances in homeland security to the visa system to ensure that accurate determinations are made in a timely manner.
January 25th, 2012 - by Guest Contributor
Last week, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy issued the National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy. Unless you knew it was coming and happened to be keeping an eye peeled for it, the document may well have escaped notice—with its release on a Friday, in the heat of primary season, and in the immediate lead-up to the President’s State of the Union Address. This is something of a shame because the plan contains some welcome elements that, if well executed, could make a positive contribution to the field.
As the U.S. fleet of icebreakers continues to age and fall behind the world’s arctic maritime community, the vision and fortitude of U.S. decision makers continues to wane. The recent announcement by Shell Oil to launch their $200 million arctic icebreaker in April 2012 should send a shiver up the spine of every Coastguardsman and mariner who has considered how the United States will deal with the future of operations in the high latitudes.
January 6th, 2012 -
CQ Homeland Security conducted its annual survey of security challenges last year and the road ahead in 2012. The three-part series included comments from security experts throughout government and the private sector, many of whom are contributors to Security Debrief. Below is a rundown of some of their responses. Check out each of the story links to read more about important security efforts in 2012.
January 5th, 2012 - by Edward Alden
US-VISIT gave its 8th annual briefing on Thursday, and the progress there continues to be impressive. While the advances in biometrics raise some delicate privacy questions, the United States is getting ever closer to creating a system in which it will be more or less impossible to lie one’s way into this country through the legal ports of entry. And more and more countries – sixty-one at last count – are going down the same road of using biometrics for border control.
Recently, it was reported that members of Mexican Crime Cartels illegally entered five different truck yards in northern Mexico by threatening security officers. These criminals did not steal cash or cargo. Instead, they compromised sensitive corporate information – routing information for U.S.-bound commercial truck shipments. Criminal organizations the world over, especially along the land border of Mexico and the United States, use commercial trucks to move contraband. Because of the huge amount of trade that crosses our borders and the limited number of personnel to inspect and process this trade, two methods were created to ease the cargo delays and help the CBP inspectors target suspect trucks.
December 27th, 2011 - by Guest Contributor
By Nelson Balido
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin last Thursday announced his resignation effective December 30. For folks who monitor border trade and security issues, this wasn’t exactly a surprise. But it was still a disappointment. Nevertheless, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the right choice in naming deputy commissioner David Aguilar as the new acting commissioner.
By Doug Doan
For anyone who needed a reminder of just how botched and dysfunctional it is to build or improve a border crossing, take a look at the toxic debate over the Keystone Pipeline. Fierce politics, nasty in-fighting, delay, distortion and misdirection all become standard fare. The Presidential Permit process was supposed to bring order and discipline to building anything across the border linking the United States, Canada and Mexico. But what a mess it has become. Every new idea must navigate an increasingly complicated bureaucratic gauntlet.
December 21st, 2011 - by Edward Alden
Newsweek asked me to do a piece looking at the current state of the political debate over border security. The request turned out to be well-timed, because it coincided with the release of the latest annual figures on the number of apprehensions at the border, which remains the best measure we have of how many people are trying to enter the United States illegally.Is the border secure yet? If not, it’s getting awfully close. Yet the political debate remains focused almost entirely on further ramping up border enforcement.
December 20th, 2011 - by David Olive
The decision of U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon – ordering CBP to halt the imposition of fines against the Union Pacific railroad in their long-running dispute over when the railroad becomes responsible for contraband found on their trains – comes as very welcome news. It was preposterous for CBP’s lawyers to seek multi-million dollar fines against the railroad for activities occurring in Mexico – activities over which they had no control. The ruling in favor of Union Pacific shows that justice can indeed prevail.
Last week Secretary Napolitano gave a very good address to the Council on Foreign Relations. She highlighted the critical role of international partnerships in advancing homeland security and the commendable progress that DHS has made in that regard. But it could be much better. DHS’ efforts to expand programs like the Visa Waiver Program and C-TPAT have been ad hoc, leading to less expansion of these programs than warranted
It was recently reported that Congress is launching an investigation into the Drug Enforcement Administration, following claims that the agency helped drug cartels launder money – an operation some in Congress say bears striking resemblance to the failed “Fast and Furious” anti-gunrunning probe. While most of America is appalled at the “Fast and Furious” operation, myself included, money laundering investigations are a completely different, proven and accepted investigative technique when conducted properly.
December 9th, 2011 - by Marc Frey
Yesterday, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper unveiled the details of an updated “Beyond the Border Initiative,” which creates a shared border security responsibility. The 9/11 terrorist attacks triggered a virtually complete closing of the U.S.-Canada border. Although it quickly reopened, much tighter and more time-consuming security procedures were put in place. Recognizing the need to work to improve both security and efficiency, Washington and Ottawa have taken various measures over the years to better secure their common border.
Earlier this month, I was at Rutgers University and fortunate to hear retired U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen speak at the 2nd annual Maritime Risk Symposium. In his address, Adm. Allen developed a theme in discussing resilience that I believe bears greater and deeper discussion. He discussed the Joplin, Missouri, tornado devastation this past spring. At the center of this lesson is a school teacher – it is the story of Dr. C.J. Huff, the young teacher-turned-school superintendent who demonstrated resilience in practice.
November 18th, 2011 - by David Olive
The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security held a hearing on how DHS and law enforcement agencies could take advantage of technology used by the Department of Defense. Many DoD systems have a significantly higher cost for civilian agencies than other technologies due to operational complexity and crew requirements. What better example do we have than the CBP’s use of the Predator UAV, which some estimates say costs $32,000 per illegal alien apprehended.
I just spent some time visiting the Homeland Security folks at the Laredo port of entry and ARNORTH in San Antonio. I walked away from both visits with the same conclusion – if we want to solve the problem of our broken borders and deeply flawed immigration enforcement, we have got to let go of the “security blanket” of arguing that we just have to get the border under control and everything will be fine. We are never going to secure the border by fixating on the border.
Customs and Border Protection’s recently announced it had received a second Predator-B Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in Corpus Christi, Texas. As the Los Angeles Times disclosed in a must-read story for anyone interested in eliminating wasteful federal spending, the Corpus Christi-based UAV was one of three Predator UAVs that CBP would be accepting, even though there were not enough pilots to fly the ones that they already had. Why aren’t the budget hawks in Congress doing something about this? What in the world are they thinking?
October 27th, 2011 -
During testimony on Capitol Hill, Chairman Issa gets into a tense exchange with Secretary Napolitano on what she knew and when she knew it regarding Operation Fast and Furious.
October 25th, 2011 - by Stewart Verdery
For almost four years, disagreements among federal agencies have impeded U.S. participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card (ABTC) program. The ABTC is meant to expedite the travel of business men and women in the Asia-Pacific region as international trade and travel has grown explosively. Today marks a huge milestone as the House of Representatives passed the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2011. It allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to issue ABTCs to qualified business executives at no cost to the Treasury or taxpayers.