Washington report identifies a new frontier

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. think tank recently outlined a strategy for streamlining border problems, including taking a different approach to relations to the north and south.

The report from the Brookings Institute focuses on the policy process and on the conditions that shape its outcomes. In particular, it argues that progress requires taking greater account of the variety of ways in which the border is used by different categories of users in different places.

“The post-2001 border strategy has emphasized uniformity, with one-sizefits- all rules that ignore this diversity, and at times have falsely equated conditions at the U.S.-Canadian border with those at the more difficult U.S.-Mexican border,” says the report’s author Christopher Sands.

Sands is a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute – a global security research organization – who also suggests that since 9/11, security concerns have trumped economic ones, leading to delays and higher costs for the cross-border movement of people and goods.

Several initiatives have attempted to address these problems, notes the report, including the the U.S.-Canada Smart Border Action Plan and the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

“While they have achieved some success, the unfortunate reality is that the border today remains a source of considerable user frustration and economic drag,” adds Sands.

The report recommends legislators:
– Create and engage a state-level Homeland Security Network;
– Ensure that performance evaluations of Customs and Border Protection Port Directors and other local representatives of the federal government include assessments of their efforts to develop relationships with local governments and stakeholder groups;
– Emulate the 30-point U.S.-Canada Smart Border Action Plan on a local level;
– Empower local federal officials in ways that ensure greater lateral communication and resource-sharing without recourse to Washington;
– Adopt a Total Quality Management model of continuous process improvement at the border;
– Congress should authorize funds for a Border Security Pilot Project Challenge Fund to test new ideas;
– Publicly adopt a two-speed approach to the Canadian and Mexican borders;
– Reform but do not abandon the Security and Prosperity Partnership;
– Form a U.S.-Canada or North American Joint Infrastructure Planning Commission.

“In short,” says Sands, “the time is right for instituting reforms that will resolve particular problems and open the door to a broader dialogue about a “new frontier” for the 21st century, a truly modern border that could be a place of innovation and serve as a model for progress on the management of other borders.”

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