U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced a bipartisan bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a Northern Border Coordination Center to be collocated with existing DHS components that are currently operating out of Selfridge Air National Guard Base.
The Center would help improve coordination across DHS and with state, local, and Tribal governments, and other key stakeholders, to ensure DHS and its operational components are able to fulfill their security mission at the Northern Border.
The Northern Border Coordination Act would require DHS to establish the Northern Border Coordination Center, to be collocated with an existing U.S. Border Patrol sector headquarters, the U.S. Border Patrol Northern Border Coordination Center, an Air and Marine Operations Branch, and a U.S. Coast Guard air station. The Center would support implementation of the Northern Border Security Strategy, help to track Northern Border security metrics, serve as a training location for DHS personnel and as a testing grounds for new border security technologies. The legislation also requires Air and Marine Operations to maintain quick reaction capabilities at the Center to support the border security mission along the Northern Border, including against the rising threat of illegal cross-border drone activity.
In April, Border Patrol in Maine sought assistance from the public to combat suspected human smuggling activity in and around border areas following an increase in organized, criminal human smuggling. Border Patrol in Maine has approximately 200 Agents patrolling 611 miles of land and river border. In total, about 2,000 agents cover the nearly 4,000- mile land border with Canada, excluding Alaska.
In May, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that said Border Patrol’s reliance on detailing agents from northern border sectors to the Southwest border has affected enforcement operations. In the Swanton sector for example, the number of illegal migrants that got away from authorities increased by approximately 900% between October 2022 and February 2023. OIG voiced concern that details to the Southwest border may become more frequent, further impacting northern border security.
Introducing the Northern Border Coordination Act, Senator Peters said DHS personnel must have what they need to effectively secure the Northern Border. “Selfridge Air National Guard Base already houses a number of DHS missions and this Center will work hand-in-hand with existing resources and capabilities, allowing the Department to further enhance efforts to ensure that the Northern Border’s security needs remain a priority.”
“The Northern Border Coordination Center established by this bipartisan bill will support border operations and enhance domain awareness with the shared goal of keeping Maine safe and secure,” said Senator Collins. “This legislation is a valuable step forward in assessing and prioritizing the efforts on the ground at our Northern Border.”