Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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The Week in Homeland Security: Miller Looking to Assess Border Security Levels

by Candice Miller on February 14, 2011

The new chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Affairs intends to focus her first oversight hearing on determining just how “secure” the northern and southern borders are.
Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., said she will kick off the Tuesday hearing by following up on something Homeland Security Committee Janet Napolitano said during a meeting of the full committee last week. At that earlier event, Napolitano said that the Border Patrol metric “operational control” is a “very narrow term of art” that does not reflect how secure the border truly is. The secretary’s comments came after Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the operational control figure for the Southern border is 44 percent and Miller pointed out that according to the Government Accountability Office, the Northern border is at 2 percent.
Operational control is basically “restricted to where you have individual agents located. It does not take into account infrastructure. It does not take into account technology, which is a force multiplier,” Napolitano said.
But Miller told CQ that if that number doesn’t provide an accurate picture, she wants to know what measurement does.
“That’s fine, but we need to understand how secure our border are,” she said. “If it’s a ‘term of art,’ what does it mean?”
To that end, the committee has scheduled Border Patrol chief Michael J. Fisher and Richard M. Stana, director for Homeland Security and Justice at the Government Accountability Office, to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.
Miller said she intends to have the notion of measuring out border security levels as a recurring theme in her oversight activities.
“I think that the borders are not secure,” she said. Although the chairwoman said she finds the Obama administration’s claims that the Southern border is the most secure it’s ever been suspect, she added that even if those statements are true, there is a need for improvement. “When George W. Bush was president, we didn’t do as much as we should have either.”
Coming from a district adjacent to Lake Huron, Miller said she also wants to shed more light on the issue of security along the U.S.-Canada border, a topic that often gets eclipsed by Southern border issues.
“Let’s not forget we have two borders,” Miller said. “We have some unique challenges at the Northern border.”
Those include the Great Lakes and wide swaths of mountainous or forested terrain that make surveil lace difficult. And, she said, “We’re not going to be able to build a fence up there.”
Miller said the surveillance and patrol difficulties associated with the Northern border have made her an advocate of investing in border technology, including the wider use of unmanned aerial vehicles. She said she plans to press the Federal Aviation Administration, which has restricted UAV use in U.S. airspace, to provide more licenses to Customs and Border Protection and its related agencies.
Tuesday’s hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in 311 Cannon

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