Infrastructure needs along Montana's 14 ports of entry could get help, thanks to a funding bill approved by the House and Senate, along with other measures expected to pass into law early next year.

In June, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., along with Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, introduced the Border Infrastructure and Technology Modernization Act, which was included in a funding bill recently passed by the House and Senate.

The legislation directs the Department of Homeland Security to prepare and submit to Congress an annual security plan that includes a vulnerability assessment of each port of entry located on both borders.

The legislation authorizes $100 million per year to implement the security plan for all 154 U.S. ports of entry. It also would help address U.S. infrastructure needs along the two borders, provide funding to upgrade border technology, and allow for 300 additional employees for border agencies through 2012.

"Border security is the first step toward real immigration reform," Rehberg said Friday afternoon in a press release. "This is a huge step in strengthening our national security."

The effort is one of several this past year to address the border issue, including the often overlooked northern border.

In October, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., also cosponsored with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an amendment placing $3 billion into strengthening the nation's borders, including the northern border.

The money will be used to hire, train and deploy more federal agents and officers to the border. The funding would also be invested into new border technology, such as unmanned aerial drones, remote sensors, and radar.

"The president said he was hopeful to sign it soon," said Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy on Friday, speaking of Tester's amendment. "The continuing resolution should go out at the end of the year, and we definitely expect that to happen."

Murphy said Tester, who's a member of the Homeland Security Committee, also sponsored the Northern Border Prosecution Initiative, allocating nearly $3 million in federal funding to help state law enforcement prosecute small-time criminals in border-related offenses.

Earlier this year, Tester helped pass an amendment requiring Homeland Security to analyze the northern border and submit its security recommendation to Congress.

The amendment, which passed after the 9-11 Commission shed light on the northern border and its vulnerabilities, has already become law.

"Securing the northern border and making sure it has the resources and manpower it needs has been import to Jon," Murphy said. "He supports any measure to make it safer and stronger."

Calls to U.S. Customs and Border Protection were not returned Friday afternoon.

Reporter Martin Kidston: 447-4086 or mkidston@helenair.com

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