The Canada-U.S. border: achieving an efficient inter-organizational policy coordination.

AuthorTherrien, Marie-Christine

    The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States have triggered many questions concerning the security of the Canada-U.S. border. As events unfolded on that day, the actual border was closed for only a little more than 24 hours, but it still created significant difficulties for thousands of travelers and businesses. The attacks exposed one of the paradoxes of recent globalization: accelerating movements of goods and people across national boundaries make it ever more difficult for governments to ferret out transnational terrorist threats. Hence, 9/11 events increased pressure on Canadian and American agencies regulating cross-border charged with managing the flow of goods and people more effectively. Many of these agencies now responsible for thwarting terrorist incursions have already experienced increased workloads due to cutbacks imposed on them over the past decade. After 9/11 the media raised questions about insufficient resources, lack of communication and misinterpretations affecting cross-border regulatory agencies. Still, one question has seldom been asked: could a systemic business model help the agencies to implement anti-terrorist policies more effectively using resources and support systems already in place? To argue this case, first Part II presents a few facts on the Canada-U.S. border and then outlines those measures that the two different countries have put in place intuitively to help better coordinate their anti-terrorist strategies at the interagency and intergovernmental level. Then, Part III puts forward a systemic model which might help the different Canadian and American agencies responsible for cross-border management to create more efficient strategies for implementing improved border security policies that would assess the potential danger of terrorist attacks.


    1. The Importance of the Border

      The U.S.-Canada border consists of 130 land crossings along the longest unfortified boundary in the world at 8,890 kilometers. Two hundred million crossings take place each year, and traffic is expected to grow at the rate of 10 percent annually over the next decade. ( As previously mentioned, the attacks on 9/11 caused the United States to close its borders for about a day. Given the fact that more than U.S. $1.2 billion worth of goods cross the U.S-Canada border every day in the most important (in dollar value) trading relationship in the world, it is apparent that even the brief closing that took place on 9/11 must have exerted a profound impact.

    2. How did Canada and the U.S. Respond?

      As the Canadian and American governments geared up to fight terrorism they both realized that their actual governmental structures were somewhat inadequate to deal with these issues. As with many crises, it was soon realized that a better coordination between different government agencies was required. The 9/11 events showed clearly the difficulties in coordination between intelligence agencies such as the CIA and the FBI and also between INS, U.S. Customs, the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Consular Affairs, all of which shared border management (Moynihan and Roberts, 2002). For example, the U.S Customs Service has had to take into account more than 400 laws and 34 international treaties, agreements and conventions on behalf of many federal agencies.

      In response to these problems, the U.S. government created a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which brought together 22 federal departments with different directorates to better coordinate responses to terrorist threats against the continental U.S. DHS represented the greatest restructuring since the Cold War-spawned reorganization dating from 1947.( Under DHS the U.S. Customs Service, the INS, the Federal Protective Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Office for Domestic Preparedness merged into a Border and Transportation Directorate which is now responsible for insuring border security. All of these agencies had belonged to other departments before the creation of DHS and probably had different organizational structures and cultures. The effective merging of these agencies into one Directorate will remain a difficult task to achieve if some bureaucratic aspects are not considered. Hence a systemic model developed from our prior research might be applied after some modification to help create a strategic plan for integrating these units without losing sight of the complexity of the issues that will be discussed In Part III.

      On the Canadian side, the following government agencies correspond to their American counterparts: Citizenship and Immigration, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. In contrast to the American response to 9/11...

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