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Difficult Vigil: The Effort to Secure America's Borders, Coasts and Ports is a Daunting One--and Only in Its Infancy

NCJ Number
Homeland Defense Journal Volume: 1 Issue: 8 Dated: November 2003 Pages: 23-24,26,29
Anthony Kimery
Date Published
November 2003
6 pages
This article discusses the difficulties involved with securing America’s borders, coasts, and ports.
There are 7,500 miles of borderline separating the United States from Canada and Mexico, 95,000 miles of coastal and adjacent coastal regions, and 361 ports that require monitoring by American military and law enforcement personnel. The article describes the difficulties inherent in implementing the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002, which was designed to address port and coastal security problems. The MTSA ushered in a major reorganization of most of the agencies responsible for implementing the MTSA; most agencies were reorganized into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March 2003. Other issues involved with securing American borders, coasts, and ports include an effort to avoid duplication of intelligence operations between agencies and inconsistencies between agencies with the Port Security Grant Program requirements, which could lead to major security breaches. The article also describes steps taken by the Coast Guard, which include training and long-term fleet modernization designed to track suspicious movements at sea and along coastlines. Security initiatives undertaken at ports include the testing of new identification cards for controlling access to secure transportation facilities. Another major threat to American security involves the import of waterborne cargo from foreign countries through seaports in the United States. One proposal to reduce the threat involves improving the logistics chain to reduce the number of individuals handling cargo at seaports and increasing the number of container inspections that would be required to be performed. The United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology System (US VISIT) program is described, which would enable authorities to record the entry of and exit of non-U.S. citizens. Finally, security issues involving the American food supply are discussed, especially concerning the potential contamination of imported food products. Textboxes are offered that recount the fiscal year 2004 DHS budget for port security and border and immigration funding for fiscal year 2004.