03:09 PM

DHS Scales Back Mexico Border Fence Plans

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reveals a more modest plan to replace an ambitious border fence project that it scrapped last year after missed deadlines and cost overruns.

Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progres
Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progress
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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has revealed a more modest and scaled back plan to replace an ambitious border fence project it scrapped last year.

SBInet was a program that aimed to build a sophisticated network of cameras, radar, and ground sensors along the fence on the border between Mexico and the United States. However, after spending nearly three quarters of a billion dollars on the project, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano pulled the plug on the project for missed deadlines, performance issues, and cost overruns.

The DHS now aims to replace SBINet with the "Integrated Fixed Towers" program, which calls for just what its name says--a series of towers on which radar and surveillance cameras will be mounted to help agents patrol the border, according to a request for proposals for the project posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

[ The government is making greater use of sensors. Read DARPA Wants More From Military Sensor Data. ]

Specifically, the project will put up towers on the border between Arizona and Mexico along several key points, including Nogales, Sonoita, Douglas, Casa Grande, Ajo, and Wellton, according to the RFP. SBINet was meant to cover nearly the entire border, including parts of Texas and New Mexico.

While scaled back in scope, the towers project is still expected to meet a number of ambitious goals. The surveillance and radar technology should be able to predict illegal traffic before it happens as well as deter and detect it, accoding to the RFP. The technology also is meant to track potentially illegal movements of people across the border and detect what type of entity is engaged in movement (ie, animal or person).

The system will display information captured by the towers' technology on a common interface in a command and control center, where agents can analyze the information and make informed decisions about how they should react in real time, according to the RFP.

While the system is meant to secure the border in a similar way to SBInet, the RFP calls for the procurement of surveillance and communications equipment that is already available versus custom technology.

Specifically, the DHS is looking for: ground surveillance radars and surveillance cameras; all the necessary power generation and communications equipment to support the tower sites; and command and control center equipment, including one or more operator workstations capable of displaying information received from surveillance towers on a common operating interface, according to the RFP.

The equipment must be sturdy and able to withstand some harsh and unfriendly elements, however, including "adverse weather conditions" "in rural and remote locations where site access, power and communications are limited; and in terrain ranging from flat and open, to rugged (mountainous) and foliated," according to the RFP.

Interested parties have until Dec. 23 to respond to the DHS' request for the project.

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