Boeing [BA] yesterday said it will bid on a renewed attempt by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to acquire a system of surveillance towers strung along portions of the nation’s southwest border to help deter and apprehend illegal immigrants and drug traffickers entering the United States from Mexico.

CBP earlier this month released the Request for Proposals for the Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) program with bids due by May 21 (Defense Daily, April 9 and April 11).

The IFT program is very similar to the previous iteration of CBP’s electronic border fence program, the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet), that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano terminated in January 2011 in favor of a more flexible approach to technology for border security, one that would still include fixed sensor towers but not as many as once planned (Defense Daily, Jan. 18, 2011). When SBInet was canceled, the program had already suffered from technical difficulties and cost overruns, although it was also proving its worth to the Border Patrol, which was using it along 53 or so miles of border in Arizona.

Boeing was the SBInet prime contractor and believes that the success of the limited deployment of the system with the Border Patrol gives it an advantage in the forthcoming IFT competition.

“Boeing is the only provider to offer proven systems that have been tailored for the U.S. Border Patrol mission based on more than two years of operational performance and the southern and northern borders,” the company said in a statement yesterday. “Coupled with our unique expertise and understanding of border environments, we are confident we can deliver the best-value solution that will continue to provide enhanced situational awareness and safety for Border Patrol agents.”

In addition deploying fixed surveillance towers along two portions of the southwestern border under SBInet, Boeing also integrated pole-mounted day/night camera systems along two riverine sections of the nation’s northern border with Canada. The northern border deployments consisted of the Remote Video Surveillance System, which CBP is also hosting a competition for as part of the new flexible approach to technology for border security.

One issue CBP had with the original SBInet fixed tower program was that it required development work, which proved more difficult than anticipated. In the IFT procurement, the agency has specified that there will be no development, and plans for live demonstrations of competing systems that will be “as operationally relevant as possible”

In a particular Area of Responsibility, an IFT system will consist of multiple towers, each equipped with a ground based radar, day/night camera, and related communications systems and ancillary equipment that will be linked to an operator workstation in a Border Patrol station to improve situational awareness of the border.