Military-grade radar to strengthen northern border security will be in place as soon as November, the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the U.S. Senate yesterday.

In March, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano approved Senator Jon Tester’s request for federal law enforcement agents to use military-grade radar in the fight against illegal drug smuggling over the U.S.-Canadian border.

Use of the radar to monitor the northern border is now scheduled to begin as soon as November, Bersin told a Senate panel today. Under an agreement with the Canadian government, 22 Canadian radar feeds will be transmitted directly to the U.S. Air and Marine Operation Center.

Earlier in the year, Tester led a bipartisan effort in the Senate, pushing the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense to expand a pilot project which found that the use of small, low-flying airplanes in cross-border drug smuggling is more widespread than previously thought.

Tester, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said use of military-grade radar will improve safety in Montana’s border communities and across the state, specifically by allowing federal Homeland Security air operations to better identify and intercept aircraft illegally crossing the border.

In the past year, Tester twice hosted Commissioner Bersin to Montana to discuss northern border issues.