Senate Appropriators Fund Border Security Technologies

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in his mark of the FY ’18 Department of Homeland Security budget request has approved funding for key border security technology programs, matching recommendations this summer by House appropriators.

Cochran’s mark, released just before Thanksgiving, includes $17.4 million for the Integrated Fixed Towers (IFT) and $1.6 million for Mobile Video Surveillance Systems, which agrees with the amounts requested by Customs and Border Protection.

Overall, the Senate appropriations mark recommends $1.6 billion for border security assets and infrastructure, with most of the funds pegged for physical barriers along portions of the southwest border. House appropriators recommended $1.7 billion for the border security assets and infrastructure account.

The Senate mark, which still has to go to conference with House appropriators, also includes $8 million more than requested for “additional mobile surveillance capability systems for deployment to priority border locations determined by the Border Patrol that best meet the operational needs of its agents.”

Funding for the Remote Video Surveillance System is decreased under Cochran’s mark, which says that CBP isn’t in a position to execute production in FY ’18.

Cochran’s version of the FY ’18 DHS spending bill also funds $75 million for CBP’s Non-Intrusive Inspection system recapitalization, with at least $15 million directed for “equipment necessary to identify opioids and opiates.”

As part of CBP’s NII recapitalization plans, the Senate appropriators say that while CBP is interested in a solution that integrates active imaging technology with passive radiation detection for scanning at rail crossings, that requirement is slowing the process. The mark says that the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office needs another three to five years to develop and integrate radiation detection equipment (RDE) with new NII systems.

“While the committee appreciates the department’s desire to pursue and optimal integrated solution, delaying the replacement of these aging NII systems poses an unnecessary risk at rail border crossings,” says an explanatory statement accompanying Cochran’s mark. “Therefore, the committee directs the department to proceed with the rail NII replacement program in fiscal year 2018 while DNDO proceeds concurrently with development and testing of rail RDE, ensuring it can be integrated with the new rail NII systems once development and testing is complete.”

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