WASHINGTON — The US government will place military-grade radar along the border with Canada to thwart low-flying aircraft used to smuggle illegal drugs onto US soil, senators who sought the deployment said Wednesday.
The lawmakers, all Democrats from states that border Canada, had asked for the beefed-up surveillance in a February letter to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said Napolitano had indicated during a Senate Judiciary Committee that she was working to deploy the radar and called it "a critical step in the right direction."
"We have a long way to go when it comes to securing our Northern Border and keeping drugs out of bordering states," said Schumer, who vowed to press the department "to install these radars as quickly as possible."
In the hearing, Napolitano herself stopped well short of explicitly announcing such a step, though she did agree with Schumer that such a deployment would be a good idea.
She assured Schumer that her department was "working with" the Pentagon and the US military's Northern Command "on radar and other related issues and technologies in efforts on the northern border."
Asked whether that meant the deployment would go forward, Napolitano replied "this is moving very rapidly."
The group also included Senators Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Jon Tester of Montana, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who joined Schumer in the announcement.