Sunday, April 24, 2005

Border Security: The Maginot Line

In the previous post I briefly mentioned my research on the possibility of closing borders and creating Fortress America.

We played a word game. I said, "Maginot Line" and you say, (fill in the blank).

My friend Kender at Kender's Musings understood immediately what I was going for, but frankly dismissed it as "French stupidity" making the idea inoperable as opposed to what the real tactical problems with "Fortress France" were.

He and Mavenette insist that Fortress America is possible and preferrable.

I do not agree for several reasons. Particularly, after reading just some of the information available. And some of it sounds eerily like the problems with the building of the Maginot line.

first, let' discuss real numbers.

The United States has 90,000 miles of coast line.
Canadian border = 9,000 miles (including land and water)
Mexican border = 7,000 miles

Over 116,000 miles of coast and border.

In order to provide human security, estimating one human per mile, not including support people, logistical issues, rapid response teams that would interdict after monitoring, that is 116,000 people. Let us not forget the actual legal entry points that are very busy on a daily basis with hundreds, if not thousands, of people coming and going, requiring many more people to secure those points, process, check, support, etc.

While there are 10 top ports in the United States for ships to enter, there are literally hundreds through which ships, products and small boats pass.

On any given day, over 2739 planes enter the United States' air ways. That is 1,000,000 a year. The number of cargo ships and freight boxes is insane. As I mentioned previously, nearly the entire country and most of the world, has become a JIT (just in time) user and orderer of inventory. The amount of unused inventory is also figured in the GNP figures we are routinely given. Un-used inventory is considered a bad sign for financial growth.

One "war game" showed that a shut down of ports for a week after a "disaster" backed up manufactured goods for two months. In a country of 300 million, the inflation of goods would resemble post glasnost Russia. Businesses would shut down. The stock market would crash. Chaos.

This is both the danger of an attack through this area as well as the danger of constricting flow of materials.

Before I go further, I want to go back to the "Maginot Line" and it's failures.

The Maginot Line's failures were strategic, logistical and incompleteness. Not to mention cost.

Disregarding cost, let's explore the other failures.

Strategic failures were in both tactics and incompleteness. First, it gave the French a false sense of security. The idea that they could hover behind their walls and no enemy would dare to attack through formidable lines of artillery. The entire line actually consisted of several large fortification areas with lines of many smaller fortifications. It did not span the entire border of France, but rather, spanned the areas considered "most vulnerable". Original plans had called for the entire border to be guarded just so, but the technology, the expense, the numbers of troops necessary to man these posts and the idea that fortifications in other countries, such as Belgium, would be primary guardians that would at least slow down the enemy long enough for the French to move troops to the area.

Some of the technology was relatively new and experienced it's own problems that took months to re-engineer. The project to build the entire line that was established, man it and prepare it, took nine years to build adn 3 billion francs.

The tactical problems with the line was the biggest problem. Warfare had left the fortress and trench war of WWI. It was the age of manuever warfare. Tying up large forces in stationary fortresses that could be circumvented or directly over ran depleted the French forces. Worse yet, the French relied on these fortifications to give them time to call up and mobilize reserve forces, never considering that the fortifications could be over ran in a matter of hours or circumvented within 5 days.

Other issues included under staffing of the fortifications and moving forces from less "threatened" areas to other more important areas, consequently simplifying the identification of weak areas for attack by the enemy.

Here in lies the problem with Fortress America.

Tactically, Fortress America, loses the tactical ability to "manuever" and respond to threats, ties up forces and resources. Trying to determine strategically where forces and technology would be distributed to the best use is nearly implausibly fantastically insane.

One thing that is already apparent, the technology we are currently trying to put in place is also new and also experiencing problems both installation and mechanically.

This does not even deal with the coastal waters.

The question that must be asked, is securing the borders impossible?

I believe the first thing we need to get away from is narrowing our idea of "security" to this border lock down with walls and forts. Remember that the "enemy" or illegal aliens, the coyote runners and potential terrorists are MOBILE. They are not restricted to one type of entry. They can come on foot, in cars, on boats, on planes and disappear quickly into the interior while we are busy "deploying" forces from fortress areas. Even "quick" reaction forces would have difficulty coordinating quickly enough to interdict.

Instead of imagining this implausible fortress completely "securing" the borders, we should imagine "controlling" the borders through means that are similar to our activities in Iraq.

We may well need thousands of more forces. These forces may not be trained any faster than developing this imaginary fortress line, but they are by far more capable than relying on technology or fortress lines alone.

New technology, such as infra red cameras, integrated cameras, sensors, UAVs, etc are already starting to be used and can be a "force" multiplier. Even reading the CBP presentation, it's apparent that the idea of changing the culture and tactics are a long way from becoming accepted in the organization, much less the office of Homeland Security. They are saying that they need to change and they have restructured command and began considering upgrading equipment and some quick reaction forces, the idea of actually "controlling the border" has not left the "policing" mind set and entered into what would really be necessary to truly effect complete control of the border: military tactics.

Let me explain. I mention already that we need "manuever" warfare tactics. Hunkering down or trying to control specific areas of the most endangered miles of border will not stop the flow of immigrants, legal or illegal. I might also mention that the 9/11 attackers were in the US LEGALLY. Let's not forget that.

The integrated warfare tactics the military is using in Iraq to control areas are the tactics we require in border control. This includes additional man power, well above the original idea of 5,000 forces that are planned by 2006. This requires training. The information from the CBP indicates that even training 200 additional people, updated training for their current forces in both law and in new technologies, is taxing their current infrastructure.

Border Patrol alone would require another 10 to 20 thousand forces to even begin operating in anyway that resembles control and this may not include support. It is possible that current military training facilities could assist, but witht he current war underway, these facilities, too, may be over taxed.

Therefore, before money can be spent on recruiting forces, money must must be spent on upgrading the training facilities, improving and increasing them. Before this can even happen, a real re-organization and development of a "strategic plan" must take place. Today, a plan exists, but it is in no way complete nor does it really attempt to restructure the department. Today, they are still operating and planning as a police department.

No matter what we do, we must also remember that immigration is still a matter of legal work and laws apply to actions, so any real strategic plan must be able to incorporate adherence to these laws into the strategic plan and training.

The training infrastructure can only be built once a true understanding of how the technology would be integrated into the strategic plan.

These things are all a matter of time, money and commitment. Once that is developed, then, and only then, can we truly consider the ability to secure the borders.

Updated forces would need many more helicopters, UAVs, tactical patrol equipment and quick response teams on call at a moments notice.

Here we are only dealing with land border control. Waterways are another story and I'll address later.

Continuing, intelligence is also necessary. In the matter of border patrol, intelligence needs to be upgraded to the same level of gathering that we use in Iraq. What I mean by this is that the border patrol cannot simply rely on local police for information, nor rely on the good will of residence of any area to keep their eyes out for trouble and report it. Aside from some southern border towns, most people keep to themselves and don't pay much attention, purposefully or not. Border patrol intelligence needs to take on more aspects of military intelligence gathering.

Information from the CBP indicates that they are doing some work within border towns to try and become familiar with people, help them with problems, even so far as looking for government and private resources to help in developing the towns and their infrastructures. Very similar to what we are undertaking in Iraq and what is working to assist in intelligence gathering.

I believe that this needs to be updated and upgraded. Even considering that the residence of these towns are American citizens and that border security seems to be the watch word of the day, it is still not something that is being re-enforced daily with these citizens. Further, just as dangerous as Iraqi "insurgents" coyotes running illegals are equally dangerous, particularly in the Mexican area where it is deeply rooted in organized crime.

Rewards need to be public, information on secured, anonymous lines need to be publicized more intently and one on one work with communities needs to become a more important aspect of our border control.

What we must be aware of is that neither our citizens as a whole nor the office of Homeland Security and certainly not Border Patrol, is on a war footing. For good reasons they have been reluctant to perpetuate this thought by words nor actions, yet, the lack of it continues to allow complacency, not just in our citizens, but in our beaurocratic agencies.

These are my current thoughts on updating our border patrol. There are bills and actions under scrutiny in Congress and Homeland security. I will try to organize some information on these items.

One thing is certain, simply saying "secure the borders", or demanding more officers or money, will not resolve the problem. This is a problem of culture, amongst citizens and government alike.

The one area in which we are excelling is taking the war "outside" the fortress and to the enemy. This is also an area that must be understood. Until "war footing" for our interior security is integrated with the strategic "war footing" of our international policies, we will not essentially change and the danger will remain the same.

We have come a long way from September 11, 2001. We have a long way to go. Computer systems date back to 1984. This development, along with a new strategy, infrastructure and culture, must be first developed and rapidly. Money into any other programs, including personnel or technologies, will not even begin to approach the problem of controlling our borders.

If anyone has military training in strategic planning and using integrated technologies and rapid response teams, please feel free to add your commentary on how this will be achieved.

Due to computer problems, I am unable to post some of the links from the sites I was reading. I will attempt to update this post with those links so you can read what I've been reading.

Govexec: Border Control

Put up this wall (What's wrong with this? Israel can go into Palestinian territory and catch the bad guys, using the wall in conjunction with military action. We cannot invade Canada or Mexico, contrary to some folks ideas)

Cargo Security (securing cargo BEFORE it is loaded and transported from foreign ports is much more effective than trying to check it in our ports or before they come into port where it is already too late. Yelling for improved "cargo review" in American ports is a smokescreen and not very well thought out strategically. Remember the war game I mentioned. Something comes into our ports and explodes or simply sets off alarms stops incoming products and brings commerce to grinding halt. See my comments above)

Water way security needs an upgraded, improved and increased personnel. Along with general defense spending, the Coast Guard needs to be treated as a real arm of the defense mechanism and given appropriate funds, support, materials and personnel.

The CBP website is down right now. Look for when it comes up.

Standby for more info on this subject.

1 comment:

liz said...

very well thought out and researched, you make a lot of good points. however, :)
IMHO, 2 million stratigically placed landmines along the us/mexican boarder would do wonders. sounds crazy BUT goes with this theory. the illegals are getting in because of lack of border patrol in addition to very lax laws. lax meaning we do have strict laws about illegal immigration that are simply not enforced. laws that are not enforced might as well not even exist. so score 2 for the bad guys already. easy to get in and once they're here we dont exactly go after them. now, simply put, if the punishment for stealing was say, hacking off your hand. chances are you wouldnt even think about it. but if the punishment for stealing was say, a reprimand and a few hours of community service. you would weigh your hunger against the punishment. hence you'd be more likely to do it. so here these people are thinking why do it legally when illegally is so much easier (and undoubtedly faster) and the consequences are about nill? hell, i'd go that way too. do we need more boarder patrol? absolutley! but if we also placed a few million landmines chances are even just saying it over the news would deter a good bunch of them. actually doing it would cause (i belive) 99% of them to think twice. harsh? you bet. its time we meant buisness. also about those pesky laws that are not enforced. scrap 'em. start over. i mean its just to financially rewarding for companies to hire illegals vs. legal citizens. period. those companies need to be dealt with swiftly and sharply. in a way that would seriously deter them from doing it. such as revokation of buisness license, and large fines. those illegals who would manage to get through would get a one way ticket back to whence they came but first did many many hours of work in community service to pay for said ticket. and again IMHO sent back wearing an ankle bracelet. those unlucky enough to make it back a second time would spend the rest of their natural lives doing community service. the whole situation needs to be re-evaluated and addressed. politicans need to stop worrying about the vote and start worrying about 'the people' as in us. legal citizens.