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PA had the skill set to deliver a major transformational change programme around a new business process ahead of time and budget.


Tony Mercer, former Director Identity Management and Network Operations, Home Office, UK Border Agency


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Smarter borders: strengthening border security through integrated systems

The pressures around border security are real and changing, and likely to intensify. Now, more than ever, governments need assurance that their borders are properly secure. However, controls must also facilitate and speed legitimate travel and provide value for money in a tightening financial climate - a real challenge for governments.

Despite the recognised risks, many countries continue to operate a disjointed system of immigration and border control. Independent agencies manage discrete aspects of control with ineffective sharing of information and intelligence. As a result, borders are often insecure, vulnerable to criminal pressures, perceived as a soft touch by those seeking to inflict harm and inefficient in clearing people through controls.

Secure and efficient border security is best achieved through an integrated and intelligence-led approach with effective interventions pre-arrival, at the border and in-country. The best border security is delivered through integrated technology enabling effective sharing of data, assured identity management and strong inter-agency co-operation and business process. 

The most effective systems of border control work to common objectives and have a consistent strategy across their pre-arrival, border/frontier policing and in-country operations. Processes, technology and organisational structures are properly linked and co-ordinated through an integrated programme involving all those with a responsibility for border security: borders/immigration agency, police and customs (if separate) and those involved in national security. 

Integrating processes and technology gives those involved in each aspect of border protection access to the same data and intelligence. Data helps inform risk and improve integrity around decision-making so it needs to be available to all those involved in border security. It can strengthen the system and at the same time facilitate entry for legitimate (and welcome) tourism, trade/investment and education. The sharing of data also enables the creation of new intelligence, derived from the bringing together of discrete data sources to inform and steer effective intervention. 

Immigration and border control needs to adapt to changing threats and pressures. Continuous improvement should be an ongoing priority. Aligned with clear strategic objectives, and integrating systems it should be a prime objective of any reform programme. Planned and proactive re-modelling will often avoid the need for fundamental change in response to a major incident (for example, 9/11 and the subsequent setting up of the USvisit Programme). Indeed the inquiries and analysis into such incidents points to the need for greater integration to help avert such tragic events. 

Integration provides the opportunity for a critical look at overall border protection. A review of the overall system should include an analysis of how the system functions at present, an assessment of the threats and vulnerabilities of the current system and its capacity to mitigate the risk of these materialising. Is the system supported by joined-up technology, data sharing, effective identity management and inter-agency co-operation? How will it function in the future and what needs to be done to achieve this? What are the benefits of change and how will success be measured? What are the implications of change for the system as a whole and how can governments ensure that operational risks are not simply being moved elsewhere?

Integration helps enhance border security, facilitates legitimate trade and travel, improves efficiency, reduces costs and provides a more flexible and resilient system. However, it is a complex journey involving organisational change, restructuring, people development, new processes and technology that affects multiple agencies and stakeholders. For this reason, governments aiming to transform their border security need to embark on that journey in good time. 

PA has a range of expertise in this area. Our work includes helping transform border security for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the introduction of the world's largest and most sophisticated border control system. We have also worked with the UK, Saudi Arabian and other governments to deliver integrated systems and enhance controls through biographic and biometric checks pre-arrival at the border and in-country.

To learn how PA can help you set up an integrated system to manage border security, please contact us now.

Andrew Hooke
Government and public sector
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Søren Lehn
Government and public sector
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