The maritime border on the Great Lakes and rivers is "vulnerable to use of small vessels as a conduit for potential exploitation by terrorists, alien smuggling, trafficking of illicit drugs and other contraband and criminal activity," according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"While DHS has planning efforts underway to streamline northern border security efforts internally and across its northern border partners, until such plans are implemented, coordination challenges could be preventing partners from receiving vital information needed to effectively secure the border," the GAO report concludes.
The report describes securing the northern border as "a daunting task" but says by excluding partner resources, DHS "may be missing opportunities to target coordination efforts and make more efficient resource decisions."
DHS spokesman Adam Fetcher told TPM in a statement that the agency values its partnerships with the Canadian government as well as with federal, state, local and tribal partners.
"We have made critical security improvements along the Northern border, deploying additional Border Patrol agents, technology, and infrastructure," Fetcher said. "The Department is currently finalizing a comprehensive Northern Border Strategy to guide our efforts from a Department-wide perspective, addressing one of the GAO's recommendations."
"DHS is also reviewing the inventory of interagency forums to assess efficiency and identify challenges," he added.
Additional reporting by Melissa Jeltsen.