JEFF KAROUB Associated Press Writer HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich.
The federal government is building an intelligence gathering center designed to help detect smuggling, terrorism and other crime across the long and liquid Great Lakes border between the U.S. and Canada, author i t ies sai d Tuesday. The $30 million Operational Integration Center at Selfridge Air National Guard Base is the first center of its kind on the northern border and is expected to open next May. It will analyze and act on aircraft video, border camera images and other information from several federal, state and local agencies. Officials say the center eventually should incorporate data from satellites, unmanned aircraft and other sources, and provide real-time information from across the entire Great Lakes border. The base is in Macomb County’s Harrison Township, 20 miles northeast of Detroit. The Department of Homeland Security has several centers that gather and share law enforcement resources along the U.S.-Mexico border. But officials said Tuesday that the Michigan operation will be a big boost for the northern border, which is nearly twice as long as its southern counterpart and historically has received fewer resources despite threats such as the smuggling of drugs, people and weapons. The northern border center is “a huge step forward for intell igenc e gathe r ing, ” sai d Republican U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, who represents the area and serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. She described it as a pilot project that she hopes will be expanded and “become a national model on how we share intelligence.” Funding for the center comes from $40 million that Congress authorized more than a year ago for Homeland Security Improvements on the northern border. The center, which will be housed in a vacant 9,000-squarefoot building on base, is the government’s next step in efforts to secure the border. Federal agencies already cooperate at Selfridge, where the Great Lakes Air and Marine Branch officially opened in July 2008. Great Lakes is the fifth and final branch of the Northern Border Air Wing mandated by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Miller said Sept. 11 “opened our eyes to weaknesses we had in our system,” particularly a lack of sharing among law enforcement agencies. She and others say Selfridge was a logical place to collect and share intelligence, since it already serves many federal agencies and all military branches. “We understand border security is ... a team activity,” said Mark Borkowski, executive director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Secure Border Initiative.