SBInet goes mobile with radar

The Homeland Security Department is adding mobile radar units to its $8 billion SBInet border surveillance system to provide extra capabilities and fill small gaps in coverage, a senior official said.

Kirk Evans, program manager for SBInet, likened the system to a football team. "We view the mobile system as a linebacker, to plug gaps in certain areas," he said. DHS purchased 30 mobile radar units from Telephonics Corp. for $14.5 million.

SBInet is the Secure Border Initiative Network border surveillance system under construction along the U.S. land borders. The system is largely made of cameras, radars, sensors and communications equipment mounted on towers. The prime contractor, Boeing Co., has completed the first 28-mile segment in Arizona, which was conditionally accepted by Customs and Border Protection in December and is currently undergoing final testing.

The first units are expected to arrive in March. CBP will test them in the laboratory and, if they pass muster, begin deploying them in Arizona by October, Evans said.

The agency anticipates that imminent deployment of the SBInet surveillance system in parts of Arizona could shift illegal border crossing activity to new locations, Evans said, and CBP wants to be prepared to move the mobile units quickly to those new areas.

"We can put them up faster than we can put up towers," Evans said.

The 30 systems will be adequate for strategic coverage of most of the Arizona-Mexico border, he said.

Assuming the initial operations go well, the agency anticipates purchasing enough mobile radar units to provide gap coverage along the entire U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada land borders, Evans said. Officials did not provide estimates on the number of units or the cost to accomplish that.

The mobile units became part of the SBInet strategy in spring 2007, Evans said, and were added to the statement of work for the program at that time. Boeing was hired as prime contractor in September 2006 to design and implement a comprehensive surveillance solution.

The initial mobile radar units were purchased by the General Services Administration on CBP's behalf. Telephonics of Farmingdale, N.Y, is a unit of Griffon Corp. of Jericho, N.Y.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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