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The concept of border management hinges on the tension between the need to prevent undesirable people and goods from crossing borders and the economic vitality that a country gains through trade and travel. Building on the concept of border management, this Perspective proposes opportunities to strengthen security while simultaneously improving the flow of licit travelers and goods through national policies, programs, regulations, and activities.

Lessons learned from border management efforts in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Niger, and Morocco provide three operational principles that should serve to guide efforts to develop the delicate balance inherent in border management. First, incorporating security and the licit flow of people and commerce should be considered for any border management system. Designing and building border management into systems is more effective and efficient when it is fully incorporated into border activities. Second, an integrated, layered approach to border management should be developed. No single physical structure or operational concept will be sufficient; rather, a comprehensive, integrated system; planning; appropriate equipment; and training and exercises are essential to border management. Finally, a national border management system requires establishing unity of effort across all relevant governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders with responsibilities or interests in what occurs at national borders.

Recommendations

  • An integrated, layered approach to border management should be developed. No single physical structure or operational concept will be sufficient; rather, a comprehensive, integrated system; planning; appropriate equipment; and training and exercises are essential to border management.
  • Security and the licit flow of people and commerce should be considered for any border management system. Designing and building border management into systems is more effective and efficient when it is fully incorporated into border activities.
  • Developing operational capabilities is preferable to fielding equipment and technologies. International donors tend to provide individual pieces of equipment rather than build end-to-end operational capabilities. In this way, a nation could be left with patrol vehicles from different donor nations with different types of communications systems that are neither interoperable nor sustainable. Donor coordination meetings with the host nation must be held regularly to harmonize capacity-building efforts.
  • A partner's ability to absorb new capabilities must be carefully considered. The absorptive capacity of the partner nation must be understood and factored into any border management system or planning timeline.
  • International efforts must be coordinated. The complexity of U.S. organizations supporting these efforts can be overwhelming to partner nations. Support normally extends across multiple departments and agencies and cuts across disciplines (e.g., border security, counterterrorism, police reform, countering violent extremism, other security-related assistance programs), which may add to host nation difficulties with coordination.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Foundations for Developing a Border Management Capability

  • Chapter Two

    Lessons Learned in Border Management

  • Chapter Three

    Building a Comprehensive Border Management Capability

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusion

This Perspective is a RAND Venture. Funding was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. It was also funded through a generous grant from the Ford Foundation and developed within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation perspective series. RAND perspectives present informed perspective on a timely topic that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND perspectives undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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