CBP releases integrated fixed tower solicitation

FOIAed doc shows CBP dismissed UAVs as IFT substitute
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Customs and Border Patrol released April 6 a solicitation calling for integrated fixed towers to be built along the southwestern border in Arizona.

The solicitation forms part of the Arizona Border Surveillance Technology plan, a successor to the ill-fated SBInet effort that DHS canceled in January 2011. SBInet was an attempt to blanket the southwestern border with a networked chain of radars, cameras and heat and motion detectors, allowing border patrol agents to work from a common operational picture.

The solicitation specifies that sensors on the towers should “be able to detect a single, walking, average-sized adult” and provide sufficiently high-resolution video of that adult at a range of between 5 and 7.5 miles under conditions of daylight and darkness and with obstructions to line of sight ranging from clear to 50 percent blockage of the individual for periods of 1 to 3 seconds and during sustained wind speeds of 10 miles per hour and gusts of up to 15 miles per hour.

Moreover, the system should be able to determine the number of people within a group, "items they are carrying or backpacking, and whether they appear to be migrant workers, smugglers, or potential terrorists, and identify weapons if possible."

The sensors should also be able to detect and track humans traveling on foot, on animals, on vehicles “without operator intervention.” Any items of interest detected by sensors would be noted on an operator workstation, the solicitation adds.

The contractor will have to build, install and test seven towers within 12 months after contract award. With all options exercised, the solicitation calls for 50 towers total over a period of 6 years; the entire contract could last up to 8 years and 6 months. 

An internal Arizona Border Surveillance Technology plan document obtained (.pdf) by FierceHomelandSecurity through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that CBP officials at one point considered, but then dropped, the possibility of utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles as a substitute for integrated fixed towers.

The heavily redacted document is dated July 22, 2010, about six months before DHS announced SBInet’s cancelation.

According to statements in the document, DHS officials had already concluded that SBInet was impracticable, stating that the “comprehensive technology integration may someday be useful--but best left to the future.”

Since the SBInet cancelation, CBP has pursued what it says is a mixed-technology program that depends on the terrain, geography, population and concept of operations and enforcement tactics within a certain focus area.

CBP also says it intends to award a contract for upgraded remote video surveillance systems, starting first in Arizona.  

For more:
- go to the integrated fix tower solicitation on FBO  
- download the FOIAed Arizona Border Surveillance Technology plan

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