Military-grade radar to be deployed along border
Upgrades to radar systems to improve security on the northern border in hopes of reducing illegal air crossings could be in place by the fall, according to Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
U. S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin told a Senate panel Tuesday that military-grade radar will be in place to strengthen northern border security as soon as November.
Under an agreement with the Canadian government, 22 Canadian radar feeds will be transmitted directly to the U. S. Air and Marine Operation Center.
The issue of providing better security on the northern border has been a high priority for Montana's delegates to Congress.
Last fall, Tester and U. S. Sen. Max Baucus brought Bersin and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to Montana to look at security issues, including holding a town hall meeting in Havre.
Tester brought Bersin and other high-ranking U. S. and Canadian border officials back to Havre for another meeting in March.
A report requested by Tester was issued late last year studying issues on northern border security and suggesting ways the security could be increased, including higher levels of collaboration and cooperation between federal, state, tribal and local agencies.
Another development on that issue is a grant to fund a pilot program in Montana on increased across-the-border cooperation and communications on border security issues.
Tester said the implementation of the new radar systems will mean better monitoring of the border and faster response times by Customs and Border Patrol units.
"Our law enforcement officers and border agents will have an effective new tool to keep a better eye on the border, and to get in front of illegal crossings, " Tester said. "This is a smart, cost-effective and common sense way to keep making our communities safer — both from illegal drug threats and terrorist threats. "
In March, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano approved Tester's request for federal law enforcement agents to use military-grade radar in the fight against illegal drug smuggling over the U. S.-Canadian border.
Tester earlier in the year led a bipartisan effort in the Senate, pushing the departments of Homeland Security and Defense to expand a pilot project which found that the use of small, low-flying airplanes in cross-border drug smuggling is more widespread than previously thought.
Tester said use of military-grade radar will improve safety in Montana's border communities and across the state, specifically by allowing federal Homeland Security air operations to better identify and intercept aircraft illegally crossing the border.