Gov’t Accountability Office Slams DHS Control Of Northern Border

Janet Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security have long been facing criticism over whether the feds are doing enough to secure the Mexican border. But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report this week that the government is ignoring the threat on the porous border shared with our neighbors to the north.

DHS has been challenged in its efforts to address the threat of illegal activity on the northern border “where the extent of illegal activity is unknown, but the risk of terrorist
activity is high,” the authors of the GAO report write.

The GAO’s review of reports from 2010 showed that for the northern border overall, just 32 of the nearly 4,000 border miles had reached an acceptable level of control.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.