Skip to main content

Various Issues Led to the Termination of the United States-Canada Shared Border Management Pilot Project

GAO-08-1038R Published: Sep 04, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 04, 2008.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


In the years since the 2001 terrorist attacks, balancing the need to secure U.S. borders while maintaining the flow of legitimate cross-border travel and commerce has taken on an added importance. The United States and Canada share a border that extends nearly 4,000 miles, and one of the world's largest trading relationships. Each year, approximately 70 million travelers and 35 million vehicles cross the border from Canada into the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Given the volume of cross-border travel and trade between the United States and Canada, border congestion and the resulting wait times have a substantial economic impact on both nations. Furthermore, according to an analysis by DHS, the heightened emphasis on border security following the 2001 terrorist attacks has lengthened processing time for travelers and cargo crossing into the United States. Recognizing the need to improve both border security and border-crossing efficiency, the United States and Canada have cooperated on various cross-border management initiatives intended to increase the flow of legitimate travel across the border while maintaining security. For example, to facilitate the travel of low-risk prescreened individuals across the northern border, the United States and Canada jointly operate the NEXUS program. The NEXUS program allows registered border residents and frequent cross-border travelers identified as low-risk individuals access to dedicated lanes and expedited processing with minimal inspection. The United States and Canada also coordinate on border law enforcement programs such as the Integrated Border Enforcement Team Program (IBET), which is a bi-national, multi-agency law enforcement initiative that (1) provides, where necessary, support to national security investigations associated to the Canada/United States border and (2) investigates illegal cross-border activities. A key collaborative effort to improve security and relieve congestion at the ports of entry across the northern border is to move customs and immigration inspection activities away from the border--a concept known as "land preclearance" or "shared border management." In December 2004, the United States and Canada announced that the two governments had agreed to move forward with a land preclearance pilot project at the Buffalo, New York-Fort Erie, Ontario Peace Bridge and at one other border crossing site along the northern border, which had not yet been determined. The land preclearance pilot project flowed from the 2001 Smart Border Declaration and its associated action plan, which was meant to enhance the security along the northern border while facilitating information sharing and the legitimate flow of people and goods, and securing infrastructure. The preclearance pilot at the Peace Bridge would involve the relocation of all U.S. border inspection operations for both commercial and passenger traffic from the U.S. side of the border in Buffalo, New York, to the Canadian side of the border in Fort Erie, Ontario. From 2005 to 2007, the United States and Canada were engaged in negotiations to implement land preclearance at the Buffalo-Fort Erie Peace Bridge ports of entry. However, in April 2007, these negotiations were officially terminated by DHS. Section 566 of the 2008 DHS Appropriations Act mandates that we conduct a study on DHS's use of shared border management to secure the borders of the United States. In accordance with the mandate and discussions with Committee staff, this report addresses the following questions: (1) What negotiations have been conducted by the Department of Homeland Security regarding the shared border management pilot project? (2) What issues led to the termination of shared border management negotiations?

Full Report

Office of Public Affairs


Border controlBorder patrolsBorder securityFacility managementFederal facility relocationHomeland securityInspectionInternational cooperationInternational relationsLand managementLaw enforcementPort securityProgram evaluationProgram managementStandardsTerrorism