Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday released a new draft solicitation for its next round of border and maritime security sensor towers and plans to make at least one award in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023.

The draft request for proposals (RFP) for the Consolidated Towers and Surveillance Equipment (CTSE) contract covers the Integrated Surveillance Tower (IST) program, which has near and longer-term objectives. In the near-term, CBP wants surveillance towers for the Border Patrol that meet requirements of legacy systems, which include the successful Remote Video Surveillance System-Upgrade (RVSS-U), Integrated Fixed Towers (IFT), and Autonomous Surveillance Towers (AST).

Over time, the program may “acquire future systems and enhancements that build on, improve, or supersede legacy programs,” CBP says in a statement of objectives attached to the draft RFP.

CBP says it plans to award up to three indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts for CTSE.

The Border Patrol uses legacy ISTs, as well as mobile surveillance capabilities, to enhance situational awareness between ports of entry, alerting agents to illegal activity and giving them time to respond. The existing tower systems include electro-optic cameras, radar in some cases, communications and power sources.

The ASTs are provided by Anduril Industries and include artificial intelligence to enhance autonomy. The IFTs are provided by Elbit Systems of America [ESLT] and the RVSS-U by General Dynamics [GD].

Most of the current surveillance systems require manual operation to detect, track and identify items of interest (IoI), meaning operators monitor systems around-the-clock every day. The current systems also have their own separate command and control systems. In the future, the Border Patrol wants to minimize the operator’s load so that agents only have to observe sensor inputs when alerted and for the ISTs to integrate with a common security platform.

“Solutions are desired the provide alerts and usable data to reduce the number of agents required to monitor and operate surveillance systems, and instead, allow those agents to focus on classifying and responding to threats,” CBP says in the draft RFP.

CBP desires IST systems that will provide fixed and relocatable surveillance and short, medium and long ranges for deployments along the northern and southern borders and in maritime environments.

The upcoming CTSE procurement will not include a common operating picture (COP) program that CBP eventually expects all IST systems and other Border Patrol sensor systems to interface with. The COP, which will essentially be a security platform for displaying integrated sensor inputs, will fuse and correlate sensor data to better track items of interest, allow operators to customize select automated capabilities depending on missions, allow agents to manage and control sensors, and interface with other network and security operations centers.

“Unless otherwise specified, automating traditionally manual operations, such as IoI identification, will be a priority for the COP program, CBP says.

CBP on Oct. 4 will host a virtual industry day to review the draft solicitation.

The draft RFP is the second released by CBP for the program. The first was issued in December 2020 when the agency was calling the program Tower, Power, Instrumentation and Communication.