Border and Port Security


Border and port security agencies are charged with keeping their nations safe from terrorists and illegal, smuggled goods. RAND researchers examine border and port security challenges and immigration issues, and also advises U.S. Customs and Border Security on ways to best allocate its limited resources.

  • Protesters hold a banner reading 'We are all citizens of the world, no frontier, no borders' in Ventimiglia, Italy, August 7, 2016, photo by Jean-Pierre Amet/Reuters

    Journal Article

    The Costs of Reintroducing Border Controls in Europe

    Oct 13, 2016

    The Schengen Agreement in 1985 led to the end of border controls across 26 European nations. Reintroducing these controls would cost billions of euros in economic costs. Social and political costs would also be substantial.

  • Transportation soldiers and civilian harbormasters move cargo containers onto awaiting vessels in a training exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, photo by Spc. Cal Turner/U.S. Army


    Ten Years After the Safe Port Act, Are America's Ports Secure?

    Apr 6, 2016

    The economic importance and visibility of America's ports make them attractive terrorism targets. Port security has improved, but many of the threats that motivated the Safe Ports Act in 2006 remain, and new dangers have emerged, including cyber threats.

Explore Border and Port Security

  • A memorial stone for the Schengen Agreement is seen in the small village of Schengen, Luxembourg January 27, 2016


    Why Re-Establishing Border Controls in Europe Could Come at a High Cost

    Reversing the Schengen agreement would come at a high economic cost, while undoing many of the positive social and political developments of the past decade.

    Oct 13, 2016

  • News Release

    Re-establishing Border Controls in Europe Could Cost Up to €3 Billion a Year

    Re-establishing border controls across Europe would cost €2 to 3 billion in annual operating costs, plus fixed one-off costs of anywhere between €0.1 and €19 billion. There would also be significant social and political costs.

    Oct 13, 2016

  • TSA agents screen a passenger at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, February 27, 2015

    News Release

    RAND Chosen to Operate New Research Center for U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    A new center will conduct analyses and make recommendations to strengthen DHS across its missions to prevent terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage U.S. borders, enforce and administer immigration laws, safeguard and secure cyberspace, and strengthen national preparedness and resiliency.

    Oct 4, 2016

  • Border fence between San Diego, California, U.S. and Tijuana, Mexico


    Why a Border Wall Would Do Little Besides Waste Money

    A wall along the U.S. border with Mexico would not eliminate illegal migration, its maintenance and monitoring would be costly, and it would likely be undermined by tunnelers. Also, severing legitimate cross-border movements for trade and tourism would be tremendously damaging to the U.S. economy.

    Sep 26, 2016

  • Customs and border security


    Assessment of the Consolidation of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)

    RAND conducted an analysis of the effectiveness and efficiency of Australia's newly integrated Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

    Sep 14, 2016

  • Artist Ana Teresa Fernandez and members of cultural organization Border/Arte paint the fence between Mexico and the U.S. to give it the illusion of transparency in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, April 9, 2016


    Walls Won't Keep Us Safe

    Experience along the U.S. southern border demonstrates that even with fortifications, a wall provides only modest capacity to stop illegal crossings. More emphasis should be placed on expanding border security beyond the physical dimension.

    Apr 15, 2016

  • The logos of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are seen on computer terminals


    Jihadist Conspirators in the United States

    A review of how terrorists arrived in the United States in the past can help the government prioritize its efforts and resources. But it may not be a reliable indicator of how terrorist organizations could attempt to bring violence to America in the future.

    Dec 10, 2015

  • Service members train with the Shadow remotely piloted aircraft system, Feb. 6, 2014


    Air National Guard Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Domestic Missions

    Air National Guard remotely piloted aircraft — or drones — may be useful in responding to a variety of domestic threats and potential emergencies. However, there are congressional concerns, as well as operational and policy constraints to be addressed.

    Jun 22, 2015

  • Report

    Building the Guatemalan Interagency Task Force Tecún Umán: Lessons Identified

    USSOUTHCOM intends to use the Interagency Task Force (IATF) Tecún Umán as a model for new counternarcotics units in Guatemala. This report describes lessons learned from the IATF and provides recommendations for resolving challenges.

    Feb 9, 2015

  • A K-9 police unit keeps watch as passengers make their way through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport


    Improving Domestic Security to Combat Today's Terrorist Threats

    Today, the U.S. confronts a multilayered terrorist threat and the recent spate of attacks in Europe underscores the necessity for ensuring that intelligence keeps up with it. Intelligence services must continue to prevent terrorist assaults dispatched from abroad, head off new shoe and underwear bombers, intercept individuals returning from jihadist fronts with terrorist intentions, while at the same time uncovering and thwarting homegrown plots.

    Jan 30, 2015

  • Dissertation

    Improving Turkish-Iraqi Border Security: An Agent-Based Modeling and Simulation Approach

    Analyzes several policy options that could help increase border security by reducing militant actions from safe havens in foreign territory, focusing on a section of the Turkish-Iraqi border that is particularly difficult to protect.

    Dec 23, 2014

  • Testimony

    Strategic Planning for Border Security: Addendum

    Document submitted on September 18, 2014 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Subcommittee on Research and Technology and Subcommittee on Oversight on July 31, 2014.

    Sep 18, 2014

  • U.S. Capitol building with summer flowers


    Summer Reading for Congress

    No matter how policymakers spend their break—meeting with home-state constituents, traveling abroad with congressional delegations, or spending time with family—this summer reading list contains policy ideas that can help them hit the ground running when they return.

    Jul 31, 2014

  • Chain link fence protecting American border


    Getting Smarter About Border Security Strategy, Data, and Technology Infrastructure

    There is no single solution for border security challenges. However, a network of mutually reinforcing and even redundant layers of defenses can enable the U.S. to better control its borders.

    Jul 31, 2014

  • Officer Eric Darnsteadt from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service inspects shipping containers arriving at Port Newark with a truck-mounted X-ray machine


    Securing America's Ports by Better Measuring Capabilities

    Funding for improving U.S. port security has declined from $389 million in 2008 to $100 million in 2014. This makes it more important than ever to ensure the highest possible return on investment from grant funding.

    Jun 13, 2014

  • Customs and Border Protection officer Ballard inspects a motorist's passport at the San Ysidro border crossing between Mexico and the U.S. in San Ysidro, California


    Saving Money by Using Advanced DoD Sensors on the U.S. Border

    There is no legal reason why a DoD sensor should be excluded from use in an interagency technology demonstration or in an actual counterdrug operation as long as a valid request for support is made by an appropriate law enforcement official and no personally identifiable or private information on U.S. citizens is collected.

    Jun 6, 2014

  • A Station Ft. Lauderdale crew detains an unknown vessel during an excercise that tested new communication and tracking technologies in the Port Everglades


    Securing America's Ports

    America's ports could be made more secure by improving the evaluation of port security programs; increasing the reliance on local risk assessments when awarding port security grants; and reconsidering the 100 percent container inspection mandate.

    Jun 4, 2014

  • U.S. Border Patrol agents patrol along the international border between Mexico and the United States near San Diego, California, photo by Reuters/Mike Blake


    Improving Interagency Information Sharing Using Technology Demonstrations

    New and innovative intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies developed by the U.S. Department of Defense for the military could also be used by the Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration to help secure the southern U.S. border.

    Mar 18, 2014