Customs and Border Protection says it plans to continue to operate and maintain a tethered aerostat-based border and maritime surveillance program through the end of the decade and is seeking feedback from industry to help it develop an acquisition strategy for the program.

Peraton is the current prime contractor providing operations and maintenance support for CBP’s Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) but the agency recently decided to recompete the program ahead of schedule. CBP on June 30 awarded the company a one-year contract bridge to continue providing the O&M services to allow time to recompete the contract, which is expected to be worth between $20 million and $30 million annually for five years.

Peraton’s contract runs through June 29, 2022. The value of the award was redacted.

The upcoming solicitation for the operation and maintenance services is expected to have a one-year base period and four one-year options, which would continue support for TARS into 2027.

The TARS provide wide area persistent long-range radar detection and monitoring using radar and electro-optic and infrared sensor for low-flying aircraft and surface traffic—both maritime and ground—from eight sites. Six of the systems are based along the U.S. border with Mexico and two sites monitor the Florida Straits, and a portion of the Caribbean Sea south and west of Puerto Rico.

Peraton early in 2020 won a prior recompete of the TARS contract worth nearly $288 million over five years but CBP in June said that due to unresolved concerns with the new contract, it decided to recompete the program, leading to the current contract bridge with the company.

CBP in July said that the radar technology on TARS is over 25 years old and no longer in production, and that key ground systems components are no longer supported, leading to decreased operational availability and higher maintenance costs. The agency said these “performance and cost concerns are expected to worsen in the coming years, adding to the overall resourcing challenges CBP is addressing through the TARS future acquisition strategy.”

In a Request for Information in July, CBP says it expects its budget will have funding for the O&M activities for the new acquisition but that its budget forecast lacks “investment funding to undertake a comprehensive technology refresh or modernization approach.” Therefore, it says, it seeks “opportunities” in the current program and budget to free up funds to be reinvested “to improve overall cost effectiveness and efficiency.”

The RFI outlines four “program and procurement interests” for TARS, including optimizing the performance of the Lockheed Martin [LMT]-supplied L-88 radars on the aerostats.

The second interest area is improving mission availability, which is currently 60 percent, with most of the downtime due to weather and the rest because of maintenance, training and other reasons.

CBP also wants to reduce operational costs and is interested in business and contracting models that could improve program and system management, efficiency, overhead and cost.