DHS launches Northern Border pilot programs

While the Homeland Security Department prepares a prototype solution for protecting the northern border, new technologies already are being tested in the field, states a new report from the department's Customs and Border Protection directorate.

The 20-page report said the federal government is in the process of implementing additions in border personnel, infrastructure improvements and technologies to protect the U.S.-Canadian border. The report was written and submitted to Congress under the requirements of the 9/11 Commission implementation law approved last year.

CBP is refining a Northern Border Strategy and "developing a prototype that demonstrates an integrated air, land and maritime security solution in a selected area of the Northern Border," the report said.

As an interim measure, CBP also is deploying 12 new camera systems, 71 thermal night vision devices and 187 new ground sensors as part of the Secure Border Initiative Northern border solution. About 1,200 sensors already are in place.

CBP's Office of Information Technology and the department's Science and Technology Directorate are sponsoring various pilot projects to evaluate new technologies for the northern border. The projects are as follows:
  • Vermont's Swanton Sector is working on BorderNet, a pilot project to prove the viability of concepts for border surveillance and detection. The pilot includes ground-based radar and video, unattended ground sensors and radar/video surveillance platforms.
  • Washington State's Blaine Sector is installing vehicle barriers to separate the U.S. and Canadian border.
  • Washington State's Spokane Sector is conducting a planned test site to place acoustic sensors across an area to detect low-flying aircraft incursions.
  • North Dakota's Grand Forks Sector is evaluating gel-celled unattended ground sensors.

In addition, the report provides more details on a prototype development of a marine border security solution in the Great Lakes. Called Project 25, the Coast Guard's solution is a compliant communications systems project being deployed to the Detroit and Buffalo sectors. It will allow for secure, encrypted, digital voice radio communications and will install gateway devices for communications interoperability.

Another area of expansion is in aircraft surveillance. CBP's Air and Marine unit is adding a Detroit aircraft operations unit in June to supplement four other existing air wings in Bellingham, Wash.; Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Great Falls, Mont.; and Grand Forks, N.D. The air operations will include use of a Predator B unmanned aircraft.

The North Dakota Air Branch in Grand Forks is under review to certify its operational readiness for unmanned aircraft system operations, the report said.

"The Unmanned Aircraft Systems operations capability will become an important component for SBInet integration, and will continue to fill gaps in air domain awareness," states the report.

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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