This paper seeks to identify roles in which the nation can leverage these assets in the defense of the homeland. Drug interdiction, port security, disaster relief, search and rescue, and border patrol are just a few potential roles. Finally, this paper looks at potential obstacles, both legal and policy, to implementing a proposed way-ahead.
How can the United States leverage DoD ISR assets to secure and defend the homeland? The U.S. border with Canada stretches over 5,400 miles. To the south, the border with Mexico is in excess of 1,950 miles. Additionally, the U.S. has over 12,380 miles of coastline to defend.(2) These expansive borders and vast amounts of coastline present a large challenge to those agencies responsible for U.S. security. The difficulty with securing our southern border, in particular, is well documented. The U.S.-Mexico border has 43 legitimate crossing points. However the rest of the border consists of open desert terrain, rugged mountains and other geographic obstacles making surveillance. Inability of U.S. security forces to monitor the whole border all of the time makes it easier to smuggle drugs and illegal aliens into the United States. (3) Not only are drugs a menace to the U.S., a larger concern would be if terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda choose to smuggle in their operatives and/or weapons of mass destruction (WMD) via the same routes used for drug trafficking.
Today, numerous federal and state organizations are charged with maintaining the security and defense of the homeland: Northern Command (NORTHCOM), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Border Patrol, Coast Guard, state and local police departments. Many of these organizations operate under strained budgets and may lack sufficient funding and personnel to acquire and maintain all of the surveillance capabilities they seek. It is imperative to leverage existing capabilities and know-how in order to improve effectiveness and reduce redundant capabilities in an effort to save money. Specifically, one such capability is DoD’s UAVs.
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