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How to Improve Homeland Security

Wednesday, February 23, 2005; Page A18

In his Feb. 2 front-page story, "Infighting Cited at Homeland Security," John Mintz reported that the Department of Homeland Security "has made important strides in a number of areas" but that turf battles have limited its headway. Instead of developing one effective security force, the department sanctions three separate air forces -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection, and the Coast Guard -- as well as two separate maritime forces: the ICE and the Coast Guard.

Recently the ICE received approval to establish five bases for aviation and marine patrols of the U.S.-Canadian border. One new base at Bellingham, Wash., replicates an existing Coast Guard maritime patrol base in Bellingham and a Coast Guard air patrol base in nearby Port Angeles. Such actions undermine the administration's rationale for merging 22 federal agencies within the DHS.

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America needs an integrated approach to its border security operations, not duplication. To protect our borders we should have one security force. For reasons of effectiveness and economy, that force should be built around the almost 45,000-strong Coast Guard, which has a nationwide system of operating air and maritime bases, command nodes, intelligence centers, and communication networks.


Fairfax Station

The writer is a retired Coast Guard officer.

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