DHS demands turnkey-ready border system
- By Alice Lipowicz
- Feb 22, 2012
The Homeland Security Department’s new vision for border surveillance technology in Arizona is to buy and apply a ready-to-go fixed tower and sensor system whose performance would serve as a baseline for future efforts.
Above all, the new proposed system should be ready for immediate deployment and not require any further development or engineering, DHS’ Customs and Border Protection agency said in an updated Statement of Objectives published on Feb. 16.
“First and foremost, CBP is NOT interested in any kind of a system development,” the agency’s statement said.
If a surveillance system meeting the requirements does not exist, the agency will cancel the procurement rather than buy an “ineffective or high-risk” system, CBP added.
The new strategy is the department’s latest attempt to apply border surveillance technologies, such as video cameras and radars, to help detect, identify and intercept unauthorized traffic at the U.S.-Mexico border.
CBP released a strongly-worded and unusually detailed statement about its new strategy in the updated statement of objectives for the Integrated Fixed Tower system. The statement was published on Feb. 16 on the Federal Business Opportunities website.
DHS began soliciting input from vendors for the fixed tower and camera system in December, following the termination last year of the five-year Secure Border Initiative Network virtual fence project.
The “SBInet” border technology program resulted in more than 50 miles of surveillance capability along the Arizona-Mexico border, with cameras and radars strung on towers and connected with operations centers run by the border patrol. DHS spent about $1 billion on the system, much of which paid for testing and development.
In the proposed new system, which is intended to cover roughly the remainder of the Arizona border, CBP is seeking a fixed tower surveillance system that may be deployed immediately without further development.
“CBP understands it is unlikely that there are existing (non-developmental) systems that meet ALL of its aspirations and desires,” the CBP statement said. “Instead, CBP is interested in selecting a non-developmental (and preferably commercially available) system that represents the best mix of capabilities at a reasonable price.”
CBP said it will seek “strong confirmation” that each offeror’s system is "now ready, deployable and will not require additional engineering development effort.”
If such a system does not exist, CBP said it is prepared to start over.
“The Government has conducted extensive market research and has high confidence that there are currently existing, non-developmental systems that will warrant an eventual contract award under this solicitation,” the CBP statement said. “However, if the Government concludes there are no offerors who provide adequate confidence in the non-developmental nature of their system, or no offerors who provide enough performance at reasonable cost, CBP will cancel the solicitation rather than procure an ineffective or high risk offering.”
The tower surveillance system is viewed as a modular system that would be used in geographically-suitable areas, and would be complemented by air surveillance, vehicle barriers and other infrastructure and technologies. It would serve as a test bed to gather data on how sensors can be used to supplement border patrol agents. The data would then be a baseline for plans for fuiture phases of border technology.
For the Arizona system, a single tower unit must be able to detect an average-sized adult at a range of five miles, even in darkness, allowing for up to 95 percent obstruction for periods up to 3 seconds, and should be able to operate while withstanding wind gusts up to 15 miles per hour.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.