Secure Fence Act inadequate, experts say

DHS needs interim strategy to achieve southern border control

Two leading scholars have suggested in a newly published memorandum that the Homeland Security Department will need a new, short-term 'bridging' strategy if it wants to move quickly to achieve operational control of the U.S. southern border.

Congress approved the Secure Fence Act this year authorizing more manpower, surveillance and fencing for the border with Mexico to stop illegal traffic within 18 months.

However, hiring additional border patrol agents and implementing most of the other measures will take longer than 18 months, wrote James Jay Carafano, senior fellow for national security and homeland security, and David Muhlhausen, senior policy analyst, with the Heritage Foundation think tank.

'Most of the law's measures will likely fail because implementation will take months or years,' Carafano and Muhlhausen wrote.

What is needed now is an interim strategy that focuses on speed, strong enforcement and legal alternatives for immigration, the Heritage scholars wrote. The Secure Fence Act did not address any of these requirements and is inadequate in providing the needed tools, they said.

Carafano and Muhlhausen recommend beefing up state and local law enforcement capabilities at the U.S. borders by providing more money for fusion centers for improved intelligence and information-sharing. Federal funding also should pay for enhanced communications equipment and overtime pay for police agencies located near the borders.

The border fencing legislation also supports the aims of the department's Secure Border Initiative Network surveillance system being developed along the Mexican and Canadian borders; the prime contract was awarded to Boeing Co. in September. Carafano and Muhlhausen suggest state and local law enforcement should be more closely involved in Secure Border Initiative planning.

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for Government Computer News' affiliate publication, Washington Technology.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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