Tester requests Montana field hearing on Northern Border security

Liberty County Times

by Paul Overlie

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today asked the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee to hold a field hearing in Montana this summer to address security along the nation's northern border with Canada.

The request comes after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week released a report analyzing the weaknesses along the nation's northern border with Canada. The document was required by Tester's provision in last year's 9/11 Bill requiring the DHS to take an inventory of weaknesses on the border.

The 20-page report released this week is the first step in a plan by Tester to beef up security along the 4,000-mile Northern Border. The report lists three major vulnerabilities on the border:

*Terrorism: The report says "there is a significant concern that terrorists can enter the United States undetected at or between the Ports of Entry."

*Drug trafficking: The report notes that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents make 4,000 arrests and seize 40,000 pounds of illegal drugs, mostly marijuana and ecstasy, every year.

*Illegal immigration: "While illegal immigration along the Northern Border is not of the same magnitude as at the Southern Border, the difference is hard to quantify because of the terrain," the report says. Terrain along the border widely varies from water to grassland to rugged mountains, and fewer agents staff the wide spaces between Ports of Entry.

The non-partisan Government Accountability Office will now use the report to recommend to Congress specific ways to improve northern border security. That report is due later this year.

"This report is the first step to making the Northern Border as safe and secure as possible," Tester said. "We've got a long way to go. But this is report is a valuable kick start."

The report also highlights staffing shortages and technology concerns on the Northern Border-specifically for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"Whether it's making sure we have enough people to staff the Port of Sweetgrass or getting better radar coverage to detect small planes that can currently fly across unnoticed, we have no room to fail," said Tester, who flew over the Northern Border with CBP earlier this year.