Border and Transportation Security: Possible New Directions and Policy Options

There is consensus that Border and Transportation Security (BTS) is a pivotal function in protecting the American people from terrorists and their instruments of destruction. The issue for Congress is how to achieve desired levels of security, while not compromising other important values in the process. This report addresses possible new approaches and policy options that might be explored by Congress to attain these goals. It is one of three CRS reports in a series that make use of analytical frameworks to better understand complex problems in BTS and to facilitate consideration of alternative policies and practices. (The first report in the series, CRS Report RL32839, Border and Transportation Security: The Complexity of the Challenge, analyzes the reasons why BTS is so difficult to achieve. The second report CRS Report RL32840, Border and Transportation Security: Selected Programs and Policies, discusses programs now in place. This report is the last in the series). BTS plays an important role in the broader function of providing homeland security. The overall homeland security effort can be seen as a series of concentric circles or screens, with the outer screen being that of preventive efforts launched outside the country — before terrorists or their weapons can reach the country. The next screen is interdiction efforts at the border and in the transportation system. The continuum of activities then moves through progressively smaller circles ending with emergency preparedness and response. Congressional concern over homeland security began with broad-gauged efforts to learn more about the nature of the terrorist threat, and then moved to much more specific actions following the events of 9/11. Congressional interest in broader, more strategic approaches continues — which makes this review of possible new directions and policy options timely. Both the complexity of the challenges at the border, and the realization that multiple points of vulnerability might be turned into expanded opportunities for interdiction, have given rise to the notion of a “layered” approach to security. The basic idea of layering is that multiple and overlapping measures applied at several points in the border security environment could be more successful than just more targeted measures. The problem in hardening a few selected targets is the rising expense of unit costs, increasing conflict with other goals, and/or inability to cover all conceivable risks posed by the shifting and opportunistic nature of terrorist tactics. To pursue a layered approach to border and transportation security would mean applying some measure of security effort to each of the following points of vulnerability/opportunity: transportation staff, passengers, conveyances, access control, cargo and baggage, ports, and security en route. Several possible policy options are presented that flow directly from the framework presented in the three-part series of CRS reports. Before action is contemplated in any of these areas, however, it would be important to assess the priority of each step, its relative cost-effectiveness, and the level of intrusiveness and possible conflicts with other important social goals (e.g., privacy and civil liberties).

  • Record URL:
  • Corporate Authors:

    Congressional Research Service

    Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, SE
    Resources, Science and Industry Division
    Washington, DC  United States  20540-7500
  • Authors:
    • Robinson, William H
    • Lake, Jennifer E
    • Seghetti, Lisa M
  • Publication Date: 2005-3-29


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: Figures;
  • Pagination: 24p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01002088
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 12 2005 2:49PM