Magazine article National Defense

Despite Virtual Border Fence's Demise, DHS Spending Big on New Sensor Systems

Magazine article National Defense

Despite Virtual Border Fence's Demise, DHS Spending Big on New Sensor Systems

Article excerpt

* After one year of studying whether it was wise to proceed with SBInet--the so-called virtual border fence--Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano pulled the plug on its current iteration.

DHS has not soured on technology to monitor the borders, though. Plans call for more than $800 million to be spent in the near term on sensor systems and unmanned aircraft.

SBInet lasted five years, resulted in 53 miles of coverage in Arizona and cost nearly $1 billion. DHS will study the nine Border Patrol sectors to come up with the correct mix of technologies for each region's unique features, Napolitano said. The department will spend $750 million to cover the remainder of Arizona's border with proven technologies, an executive summary of the DHS study on the program said.

Shortly before the SBInet announcement, Customs and Border Protection signed a $101.9 million contract to procure 40 additional mobile surveillance systems from ICx Technologies, a subsidiary of FLIR Systems. CBP currently has 41 such systems deployed on the southern and northern borders, Border Patrol Agent Lloyd Easterling told National Defense.

The camera towers can be mounted in the bed of pickup trucks or towed by a trailer. They feature FLIR's HRC-X ultra-long thermal imaging camera, a ground surveillance radar that can track moving objects and day/night imagers. The system can also monitor unattended ground sensors that are designed to pick up the movement of illegal border crossers.

Using a local area network, images produced by the sensor suite can be transmitted to other Border Patrol agents in nearby vehicles, according to ICx press statements. …

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