Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

Email Candice Miller Candice Miller on Facebook Subscribe to Candice Miller's RSS Feed

Selfridge unveils ‘gold standard’ border protection facility

by Candice Miller on March 28, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011
Selfridge unveils ‘gold standard’ border protection facility
By Chad Selweski
Macomb & Royal Oaks Daily Tribune
Elected and federal officials, law enforcement authorities and local dignitaries gathered at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township on Thursday to hail the official opening of a $30 million Department of Homeland Security center – the “gold standard” for border protection.
The high-tech facility allows Customs and Border Protection agents to work side-by-side with the FBI, Coast Guard and state and local law enforcement officials to keep tabs on U.S.-Canadian border activity, relying in part on 11 surveillance cameras installed on towers along the St. Clair River from Port Huron to Gull Island.
“The Operational Integration Center is a collaborative center where we do real-time operations,” said OIC director James Wainer, a veteran Border Patrol officer.
The Border Patrol analyzes a huge bank of monitors and other intelligence data while working in collaboration with the Michigan State Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Local law enforcement, such as officers from sheriffs and police departments, will also use the OIC on an as-needed basis.
The center will target drug smuggling and human trafficking across the border. Illegal crossings related to terrorist activity are also a major concern, as the Department of Homeland Security recently concluded that the 4,000-mile northern border – the largest shared border in the world — presents a greater terrorism threat than the southern border with Mexico.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Harrison Township Republican, had pushed for the border security center for years, arguing that Selfridge represented an ideal Great Lakes location for the Department of Homeland Security.
Miller noted that the waterfront base is situated near the two busiest U.S.-Canadian border crossings – the Detroit Ambassador Bridge and the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron – as well as the busiest railroad crossing on the northern border. What’s more, the base is viewed as a model of collaboration, housing personnel from all four branches of the military service, the Coast Guard and Homeland Security.
“Team Selfridge is not just a slogan. It is a culture. It is a reality,” said Miller, chair of the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
Thursday’s ceremonies came just weeks after a federal report found that the U.S.-Canadian border security system is riddled with holes and plagued by a lack of coordination among various law enforcement agencies.
The General Accountability Office concluded that in 2010 only 32 miles of the overall northern border – or less than 1 percent – had reached “an acceptable level of security.” That level means that all illegal border crossings were detected and an arrest was made.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. intelligence community has focused on connecting the dots ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But “we’ve got a lot of dots,” the senator said.
Levin predicted the OIC, a pilot project, will become the model, the “gold standard,” for collaborative, multi-agency intelligence collection and border protection.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony, coming about six weeks after the center gradually became operational, was filled with pomp and circumstance.
The event was held in a large, special-occasions tent lit with chandeliers. The ceremony began with color guard that was led by a bagpiper. Local recording artist Karen Newman sang the Canadian and American national anthems.
The overflow crowd included top-ranking officials from the CBP, Coast Guard and National Guard; Selfridge base commander Gen. Michael Peplinski; numerous CBP and military personnel; local law enforcement officials; elected officials; and other dignitaries.
Gov. Rick Snyder and many of the officials on hand took a tour of the state-of-the-art facility prior to the grand opening ceremony.
“As someone who ran for governor as a self-described nerd, this is a fascinating place to be,” said Snyder, drawing chuckles from the audience. “The … technology is fabulous. But the real key to success is the people involved.”
The 9,000-square-foot intelligence center, located at the south end of the base, is housed in a decades-old cinder block Department of Defense building that might have been headed toward demolition.
Instead, the interior was gutted and rebuilt to hold up to 100 workers at a time and a variety of advanced equipment, including the monitors that simultaneously offer various views of border crossings and the St. Clair River, a key surveillance area because a high-speed boat ride from Canada can take just minutes.
The OIC video and data collected on suspected illegal border crossings will be shared with officials in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. In addition to the network of cameras on the river, the center will have access to real-time video shot by unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and helicopters deployed by Customs and Border Protection and the Michigan State Police.
In addition, Selfridge is home to CBP’s Great Lakes Air and Marine branch, which became operational in August 2008. This branch, which deploys aircraft and a variety of high-speed watercraft, was the last of five planned new air and marine facilities that make up the Northern Border Air Wing, as mandated by Congress after the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Previous post:

Next post: