SBI serves as good model for land ports, Ahern says
The United States needs to improve security and performance at ports of entry by taking a page from the Secure Border Initiative designed to gain effective control of the southern border, Jayson Ahern, deputy commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, said Tuesday.
SBI was established in 2005 by the Department of Homeland Security to detect and interdict illegal immigrants at the border and in the interior of the country. Key components of the strategy are hardening sections of the border with fences, heavy use of sensors and other technology to serve as a virtual tripwire, and building up the Border Patrol. DHS has devoted much of its attention to the Southwest border and SBI as illegal immigration has become a political hot-button issue in the past three years.
Ahern, speaking in Washington at a maritime and border security conference hosted by Homeland Defense Journal, called for an “SBI-like program” that similarly invests in technology, tactical infrastructure and personnel at land border checkpoints.
CBP needs more modern facilities and highway infrastructure leading to ports of entry in order to process passenger and commercial traffic without delays, he explained afterwards. Also necessary, he said, are continued funding of technology enhancements such as the radio frequency identification cards to be used in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, radiation portal monitors and automated systems for releasing commercial shipments, along with a substantial increase in Customs officers.
In January, Assistant Commissioner Thomas Winkowski placed a $5 billion price tag over 10 years on upgrading facilities on the northern and southern borders. Many checkpoints have facilities that are decades old and not built to handle today’s volume of traffic and associated technology, security and staffing requirements.
President Bush’s fiscal 2009 budget includes an additional $442.4 million for 2,200 new Border Patrol agents and $775 million to develop and deploy the SBInet border security system on top of an estimated $2.4 billion authorized by Congress for SBI in 2007 and 2008.
By contrast, the CBP budget provides an additional $10 million for renovation of land inspection facilities. ' Eric Kulisch