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New training program to help countries stop smugglers

News Release

September 04, 1997 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — This fall, "international" border crossings will spring up amid the sand and sagebrush of the southeastern Washington desert, but passersby need not worry that zealous border inspectors will scrutinize their cars and belongings.

The border crossings actually are props at the Department of Energy's newly constructed Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response -- HAMMER -- training center. Beginning in September, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will offer a comprehensive training program for foreign border enforcement officials at the HAMMER facility. Border agents from Hungary and Slovakia will be the first participants.

Smuggling in those countries, as well as the whole of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, has been on the upswing since the breakup of the Soviet Union. "The economic conditions are prompting smugglers to transport items ranging from blue jeans to nuclear reactor components. Because the border crossings lack funds, adequately trained personnel and technology, the smuggled goods have a better chance of making it through," said Bill Cliff, program manager for international border security in Pacific Northwest's national security division.

According to Cliff, a number of countries have called on the U.S. Customs Service to help them provide improved border enforcement training.

"About a year-and-a-half ago, Terry Conway of the Customs Service visited the existing HAMMER center and immediately recognized its potential for providing this type of training," Cliff said. "He also was enthusiastic about the capabilities of the new center, then under construction, and became the driving force in bringing the training to HAMMER."

Scheduled to open in September, the new facility boasts state-of-the-art classrooms and a cadre of field props for hands-on materials and emergency response training. "It happens that many of these props, such as tractor-trailers, cars and crossings, also are useful for border enforcement training," Cliff pointed out. "You couldn't ask for a better site than HAMMER for this type of training."

According to Cliff, the location of the facility is ideal. "The Tri-Cities, Wash., area is accustomed to receiving foreign visitors, so we won't have to make a lot of special arrangements when the foreign border inspectors come for training," he said. "In addition, we can offer field training at international air, sea and border ports of entry, which are only a few hours away."

Cliff and U.S. Customs officials worked with HAMMER staff to develop a proposal that would bring foreign border enforcement agents to the HAMMER site for specialized training in detection, identification, interdiction and investigation of smuggling activities.

"From the beginning, I was very excited about the concept," said June Ollero, DOE's HAMMER program director. "Our vision for the HAMMER facility is to provide hands-on, performance-based training to a wide range of 'front-line' workers -- those who risk their health and safety in their work. The addition of border enforcement training fits into that vision and is a model for how we want to do business at HAMMER in the future."

The proposal was submitted to the Department of Defense and approved. The training program is funded for three years initially, but Cliff is optimistic that it will continue beyond that period.

"There is a critical need for this training in a number of countries throughout the world," Cliff emphasized.


Tags: National Security

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