New Border Technology Programs Seek to Avoid Mistakes of the Past

By Magnuson, Stew | National Defense, August 2013 | Go to article overview

New Border Technology Programs Seek to Avoid Mistakes of the Past


Magnuson, Stew, National Defense


* A renewed push this year to pass immigration reform has put the Southwest border in the spotlight again.

Technology and its place securing the region has had a checkered past--most notably last decade's effort to build a so-called virtual fence, which was largely seen as a failure.

Before Congress took up legislation this year, Customs and Border Protection had already embarked on another effort to employ fixed-site sensors to help Border Patrol agents catch smugglers and illegal immigrants.

The integrated fixed tower (IFT) and the remote video surveillance system are the agency's latest attempt to field effective cameras and sensors.

Department of Homeland Security and CBP officials have said they are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, namely, attempting to field unproven technologies as "one-size-fits-all" solutions, and failing to listen to the users--the Border Patrol agents--to determine what they truly need to accomplish their job.

"We don't want to go down the path that we went down in 2007 and 2008," former CBP Commissioner W. Ralph Basham told National Defense.

DHS leaders have made it clear that they don't want to push the technological envelope. "This is not experimental. They want proven technology that can be integrated, that can produce immediate results," said Basham, who is now a consultant at the Command Consulting Group in Washington, D.C.

CBP spent $1.1 billion on the Secure Border Initiative, which included SBInet, a program originally designed to place a series of fixed towers along the border, and to stream live video from their cameras into Border Patrol vehicles. Although the ambitious concept was pared down over the years, prime contractor Boeing never delivered a fully working system and the program was ultimately canceled after five years of work in 2011.

In its wake comes the 10-year integrated fixed tower and the remote video surveillance system program budgeted at $1.14 billion and $224 million, respectively.

After sorting through proposals, CBP has downselected vendors for the IFT program. They are expected to demonstrate their working systems this summer.

Robert Lee Maril, a professor of sociology at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., and author of two books about the Border Patrol--"The Fence" and "Patrolling Chaos," said, "We keep making the same kinds of mistakes over and over. One of those mistakes is the belief that, 'If we just find the right kind of technology, it will solve all of our problems.'"

Maril began his research while teaching at universities near the border in Brownsville, Texas, and maintains contacts in the Border Patrol. "The Fence" documents the pitfalls of the SBInet program and its fixed-tower predecessors, which date back to the 1990s.

CBP documents describing the IFT system read remarkably like SBInet, Maril noted.

One stated that the "systems will assist agents in detecting, tracking, identifying and classifying items of interest along our nation's borders through a series of fixed sensor towers and command-and-control center equipment that displays information on a common operating picture."

One of Maril's findings is how Border Patrol agents were frozen out of the SBI-net conversations. Vendors proposed engineering solutions without ever consulting the officers on the ground as to what they needed. Several Government Accountability Office reports on the program backed up those assertions. Higher-ups at CBP didn't include input from the ultimate users of the system, either.

"I could never understand why they didn't use the Border Patrol [agents] in terms of their expertise. They were essentially excluded from the decision-making process in terms of which technologies were needed and how to use them. They weren't asked," Maril said.

Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the labor union representing agents, said he doesn't have any first-hand knowledge that anyone lower than the command level has been consulted about the new program. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

New Border Technology Programs Seek to Avoid Mistakes of the Past
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.