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New Department Would Create 'Border of the Future'

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2002 – Safeguarding the geographic perimeter of the United States and the nation's transportation systems would be one of the main missions of the Homeland Security Department proposed by President Bush, according to White House officials.

The U.S. border with Canada is 5,525 miles long; the border with Mexico is nearly 2,000 miles long, officials noted. There are 95,000 miles of shoreline and 350 official ports of entry. These include seaports and international airports.

The new department would manage who and what enters the United States, officials said. It would lead efforts to create "a border of the future" that would provide greater security through better intelligence, coordinated national efforts and international cooperation. At the same time, it would help improve efficiency to ensure border operations serve the needs of legitimate travelers and industry.

One of the department's goals would be to develop a state- of-the-art visa system through which visitors are identified by biometric information obtained during the visa application process, White House officials said. The data would be shared with border management, law enforcement and intelligence agencies so those who pose a threat to America are denied entry.

Another goal would be to deploy an automated entry-exit system that would verify compliance with entry conditions, student status and duration of stay for all categories of visas.

The new department would assume authority over the U.S. Coast Guard to secure the nation's territorial waters, officials said. The Coast Guard performs regulatory, law enforcement, humanitarian and emergency response duties. It has command responsibilities for countering threats to America's coasts, ports and inland waterways. It conducts port security, harbor defense and coastal warfare operations and exercises.

The Coast Guard would maintain its existing independent identity as a military organization under the leadership of the Coast Guard commandant. In time of war or at the president's direction, the Coast Guard would operate under the Defense Department, consistent with existing law.

The new department also would incorporate five federal organizations to carry out border security mission: U.S. Customs Service; Immigration and Naturalization Service and Border Patrol; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Transportation Security Administration; and Federal Protective Service.

The Federal Protective Service, currently part of the General Services Administration, is responsible for protecting government buildings, a task closely related to the new department's infrastructure protection responsibilities, officials said.

The recently created Transportation Security Administration at the Department of Transportation is currently responsible for the security of all modes of transportation within the United States. It employs airport security and law enforcement personnel. Currently focused on aviation security, the TSA will also address the security needs of other transportation modes.

As part of the new department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service would separate immigration services from immigration law enforcement. A new immigration services organization would work to administer immigration law. The new Department would assume the legal authority to issue visas to foreign nationals and admit them into the country.

The State Department, working through U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, would continue to administer the visa application and issuance process. The Homeland Security Department would make certain that America continues to welcome visitors and those who seek opportunity within America's shores while excluding terrorists and their supporters, White House officials concluded.

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