Posts Tagged ‘North American security perimeter’

Dana Gabriel
March 13, 2012

Through a series of bilateral meetings, U.S. and Canadian officials are busy working out the details of the perimeter security action plan. This includes a recent joint crime forum that dealt with border and law enforcement issues. These various discussions are part of the implementation process which when finished would bring about the complete transformation of the northern border and another step closer in the creation of a fully integrated North American security perimeter.

In early March, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano met with Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as part of the Cross-Border Crime Forum. On the agenda was, “transnational crime issues such as organized crime, counter-terrorism, smuggling, economic crime and other emerging cross-border threats.” Both countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on the Dissemination and Exchange of Information to combat human smuggling and trafficking. The meetings were used as an opportunity to further advance U.S.-Canada cooperation in areas of law enforcement, criminal justice and intelligence. This ties in with my previous article which detailed the Obama administration’s new counter-narcotics strategy for the northern border that includes closer collaboration with Canada in the war on drugs. Much of the joint crime forum discussions focused around the progress being made on the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan, announced in December 2011.

A readout of Attorney General Holder and Secretary Napolitano’s visit to Ottawa explained that talks with their Canadian counterparts centered largely around promoting the perimeter security agreement. It highlighted, “efforts to develop the next-generation of integrated cross-border law enforcement operations, and improve information sharing practices.” Attorney General Holder stated, “Our productive discussions today at the Cross Border Crime Forum go a long way toward advancing a key pillar of the Beyond the Border initiative that President Obama and Prime Minister Harper announced last year: integrated law enforcement that adds value to our relationship by leveraging shared resources, improving information sharing and increasing coordination of efforts.” Secretary Napolitano emphasized that, “We will continue to work with Canada to further enhance information sharing and integrate our cross border law enforcement operations, strengthening the national and economic security of both our nations.” As part of the perimeter security deal, both countries are moving ahead with harmonizing intelligence sharing capabilities.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently hosted stakeholder meetings regarding programs and initiatives found in the Beyond the Border action plan. CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Thomas Winkowski confirmed that the, “agreement forged by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper is about strengthening and expediting trade and travel between our countries.” He went on to say, “It’s about finding common-sense solutions to our most complicated problems. And it’s about extending national security for both of our nations, well away from the border.” CBSA President Luc Portelance acknowledged, “As these joint meetings with stakeholders indicate, we are committed to working with our U.S. partners to bring about greater consistency, efficiency and predictability in the management of our shared border.” The perimeter security deal will mean deeper integration between both border agencies. Some have warned that it might force Canada to harmonize its immigration and refugee policies with U.S. practices. Over a period of time, this could lead to the creation of a binational institution that would manage the northern border.

Steven Chase of the Globe and Mail reported that during recent border security discussions, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary of International Affairs, Alan Bersin commented on how, “he believes the time will come when Canada and the United States have a joint organization to handle border controls – what he described as a NORAD border.” Bersin is quoted as saying, “Why should we have separate admissibility processes … if, in fact, North American security would suggest that a Canadian and a U.S. immigrations and customs official ought to be working together to clear people in Frankfurt who are coming into Canada, to clear them such that they would be able then to come seamlessly across (the joint border into) the United States.” An article by Christopher Sands of the Hudson Institute also included another top level Homeland Security official using the same NORAD analogy to describe future joint border controls. David Heyman explained that this, “could be a model for how the two countries might handle the protection of citizens against 21st-century threats from terrorism, pandemics, cyberattacks, and organized crime.”

On February 16, the Conservative government introduced the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act. The legislation proposed, “reforms to the asylum system to make it faster and fairer, measures to address human smuggling, and the authority to make it mandatory to provide biometric data.” The new changes would put Canada in line with the U.S. and other international partners. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney praised the use of biometrics as an, “important new tool to help protect the safety and security of Canadians by reducing identity fraud and identity theft.” He added, it “will improve our ability to keep violent criminals and those who pose a threat to Canada out. In short, biometrics will strengthen the integrity of Canada’s immigration system while helping facilitate legitimate travel.” Under the section about sharing relevant information to improve immigration and border determinations, the U.S.-Canada action plan calls for implementing, “systematic and automated biographic information-sharing capability by 2013 and biometric information-sharing capability by 2014.” There are fears that a joint biometric identification system would be used to track Canadians and Americans alike.

U.S.-Canada bilateral dialogue on strategic issues concerning the Beyond the Border deal continues as the action plan lays out deadlines where initiatives will be incrementally implemented over the next several years. The proposed changes promise to bring about a radical transformation of the northern border. This will further bring Canadian security practices in line with American ones and under the reach of the Department of Homeland Security.

Dana Gabriel’s post first appeared on Be Your Own Leader.


  1. U.S.-Canada Perimeter Security and the Consolidation of North America
  2. U.S.-Canada Perimeter Security and an Integrated North American Command
  3. Canada, U.S. on verge of North American trade, security ’perimeter’
  4. Counter-Terrorism and Northern Border Drug Strategy Tied to Perimeter Security Deal
  5. North American Perimeter Security and the Militarization of the Northern Border
  6. Perimeter Security and the Future of North American Integration
  7. A North American Security Perimeter on the Horizon
  8. Globalist Border Security Deal in Works Between U.S. and Canada
  9. Canada will pay a steep price in border talks
  10. The Pretext for a North American Homeland Security Perimeter
  11. U.S.-Canada border could get security upgrades
  12. Advancing U.S.-Canada Economic, Energy and Security Integration


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The U.S. and Canada recently signed several bilateral agreements that will further strengthen continental security and defense cooperation. Deeper military integration between both countries is part of efforts to establish a North American security perimeter and better address common global threats.

Following the recent Permanent Joint Board on Defense (PJBD) meeting which took place in Ottawa, the Commander of Canada Command, Lt.-Gen Walter Semianiw and the Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), Gen. Charles Jacoby, Jr. signed three military documents. The first was the Combined Defense Plan which a backgrounder described as a, “planning framework between Canada Command, its counterpart USNORTHCOM, and NORAD for enhanced defense cooperation between Canada and the U.S. should governments require each other’s assistance.” The second is the Information Sharing Memorandum of Understanding, “an arrangement between Canada Command, its counterpart USNORTHCOM and NORAD to identify and provide for ease of sharing information amongst the three organizations.” The Civil Assistance Plan, which was originally signed in 2008 and allows the armed forces of one nation to support the other during an emergency was also renewed for two years.

Lee Berthiaume of Postmedia News reported that, “The Combined Defense Plan has been under discussion for several years and would further integrate cross-border military co-operation at a time when the Harper government is trying to reassure Washington it has a reliable partner in Canada when it comes to security.” Defense Minister Peter MacKay is quoted as saying, “This agreement provides a framework for the combined defense of Canada and the U.S. during peace, contingencies, and war.” He added, “The plan describes the authorities and means by which the two governments would approve homeland military operations in the event of a mutually agreed threat, and how our two militaries would collaborate and share information.” In his speech in front of the PJBD, Minister MacKay also called for, “increased military involvement implementing the Beyond the Border strategy, saying the Canadian Forces and its American counterparts should be supporting civilian agencies monitoring the cross-border security.” Also on the agenda at the defense forum was security cooperation in the Arctic, along with Canadian and U.S. engagement in the Western Hemisphere.

In an article for iPolitics, Colin Horgan wrote that at the recent bilateral defense meeting, “MacKay noted that such initiatives as Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan will work to ensure that the vital economic partnership that joins our two countries continues to be the cornerstone of our economic competitiveness and security.” Defense Minister MacKay emphasized that security is linked to the economy and called for even greater cooperation to support the dual action plans. He stated, “We need to increasingly focus our military forces in support of those civilian departments and agencies that have the lead.” MacKay also explained, “We need to all work together to mitigate capability gaps, share best practices and co-operate on new approaches.” He went on to say, “there is still room for more integrated collaboration – domestically and bi-nationally.”

The latest military agreements further promote a perimeter approach to security. They are part of the Tri Command Vision efforts to merge NORAD, USNORTHCOM and Canada Command into one. As for the PJBD, it has once again become more relevant as a venue for bilateral security and military dialogue. Created in 1940 the panel, “is the senior advisory body on continental defense. It is composed of military and diplomatic representatives from both nations.” Over the years, it has, “served as a strategic-level military board charged with considering, in a broad sense, land, sea, air and space issues.” This includes areas concerning, “policy, operations, financial, logistics and other aspects of Canada-U.S. defense relations.” The PJBD is well positioned to play a significant role in plans for a fully integrated North American security perimeter, as well as in other facets of the evolving Canada-U.S. partnership.

On January 6, the Obama administration released the new document, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense. The new strategy calls for maintaining a strong presence in the Middle East, as well as an expanding role in the Asia-Pacific region. Much of the focus will be on countering China’s rising power. This will include supporting large bases in Japan and South Korea, along with stationing troops in Australia. The U.S. will also continue efforts to forge stronger military alliances with the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Burma. While the plan envisions a leaner military force, there is little doubt that Washington will continue to police the world. How does Canada fit into this new realignment of American strategic priorities? It is clear that the U.S. will rely more on its allies during international missions. Canada may gain a greater voice in future military operations, but it will also mean that they will have to bear more of the burden. In the coming years, as NATO members begin cutting defense spending, Canada will be counted on to play an even bigger role in any possible overseas conflicts.

Whether it’s the perimeter security deal, the ongoing mission in Afghanistan or the bombing campaign that took place in Libya, the U.S. and Canada continue to enhance security and military cooperation. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, both countries have further deepened their defense relationship. In addition, Canada has pursued a more U.S.-style foreign policy. This includes imposing tougher sanctions on Iran, along with further expanding sanctions against Syria. Much like the U.S., Harper has singled out Iran as a threat to international peace and security. He has echoed the same sentiments that the regime is seeking a nuclear weapon and would be prepared to use it. Defense Minister Peter MacKay has also indicated that if necessary, Canada’s armed forces are ready to offer assistance in Syria. More than ever, the U.S, and Canada share a more common approach to advancing security interests in not only North America, but around the globe.


Deep Military Integration: Towards a North American Combined Military Force.