Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has released a congressionally-mandated multi-year investment plan for its inspection and detection systems used to image containers and other conveyances at the nation’s ports of entry that shows a need for hundreds of various systems in the coming years.
CBP currently operates a fleet of 315 large-scale non-intrusive inspection (NII) systems and 4,204 small-scale NII systems, with 14 percent of the large-scale systems at or past their estimated useful life as of Sept. 30, 2015, says the report, Inspection and Detection Technology: Multi-Year Investment and Management Plan, dated Aug. 1.
The large-scale systems are typically fixed or mobile X-Ray or Gamma Ray imaging systems for inspecting containers and vehicles and the small-scale systems run the gamut from X-Ray vans, baggage scanners and handheld imagers to density maters, fiberscopes and tool trucks.
Some of CBP’s NII providers include American Science and Engineering [ASEI], which is in the process of being acquired by another supplier to the agency, OSI Systems [OSIS], Leidos [LDOS], Britain’s Smith Detection, and the Morpho Detection business of France’s Safran Group. Smiths Detection is acquiring Morpho Detection.
Between FY ’16 and FY ’21 CBP plans to purchase 174 large-scale NII systems, including 74 medium-energy mobile units. Most of the planned purchases are to replace existing equipment while the agency expects to buy 26 systems to meet new requirements driven by factors such as expanded trade flow with the expansion of the Panama Canal.
The agency’s replacement schedule calls for it to acquire 28 replacement and eight new large-scale systems in FY ’16, 17 replacement five new systems in FY ’17, 37 replacement and seven new systems in FY ’18, three replacement and six new systems in FY ’19, 34 replacement systems in FY ’20, and 29 replacement systems in FY ’21, according to figures provided in the report.
The recapitalization efforts include replacing older VACIS systems at rail border crossings with newer technology to increase the effectiveness of inbound rail processing, the report says. Technology needs in the plan show demand for 22 high-energy rail systems through FY ’21. VACIS systems are supplied by Leidos.
The report says that the estimated useful life of NII technology is 10 years but analysis shows that the equipment can operate beyond 12 years. However, Without the planned recapitalization of inspection and detection technology, maintenance costs would rise, systems would become obsolete, and system downtime would rise, all affecting the effectiveness and cost of inspections because of the need for manual inspections, ultimately delaying the movement of legitimate trade and travel,” it says.
During the same period CBP is forecasting that it will buy 2,923 small-scale NII systems, the majority of which are density meters. The agency plans to acquire 2,247 density meters, which help officers locate hidden narcotics and other contraband like money, weapons and explosives.
CBP plans to buy 60 X-Ray vans and 173 X-Ray systems from FY ’16 to FY ’21.
Breaking out acquisitions year by year, CBP plans to buy 286 replacement small-scale systems in FY ’16 and 310 new systems, 171 replacement and 66 new systems in FY ’17, 632 replacement and 59 new systems in FY ’18, 358 replacement systems in FY ’19, 548 replacement and 63 new systems in FY ’20, and 348 replacement and 82 new systems in FY ’21.
In FY ’16 Congress provided $90.2 million to purchase new NII systems and $119 million to operate, maintain and support existing equipment. CBP is seeking $54.3 million in FY ’17 for new NII systems and $119 million to operate and maintain current systems.
The investment plan does not provide projected funding levels for the out-years. The plan also excludes radiation portal monitors, of which CBP operates 1,281, and other radiation detection equipment devices, of which the agency has 35,538.
The report says that in the current fiscal year CBP is working with the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which acquires radiation detection systems for the agency, on pilot projects to determine what additional technologies are needed to transition to remote operations and also to improve processing of alarming conveyances. Another pilot is planned to install next-generation RPB technology at the nation’s largest sea terminal to evaluate if remote operations could further reduce nuisance alarms.