The Department of Homeland Security is seeking funding to increase the number of surveillance towers it has along U.S. borders and complete development and begin deploying a new common operating picture (COP) for its sensor towers, according to budget documents released on Monday.

The fiscal year 2024 budget request for DHS includes $174 million for the Integrated Surveillance Tower (IST) program, $136 million to purchase about 100 new towers for use along the southwest border and $38 million for the operation and sustainment of legacy towers. Customs and Border Protection plans to purchase the 100 ISTs using either the Autonomous Surveillance Tower (AST) contract or the new Consolidated Tower and Surveillance Equipment (CTSE) indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract.

The AST’s are provided by Anduril Industries. The IST program includes AST’s, Elbit Systems of America’s [ESLT] Integrated Fixed Towers, the Remote Video Surveillance System (RVSS) provided by General Dynamics [GD], and the Northern Border RVSS.

CBP says the ASTs and IST’s it purchases using FY ’24 funding will be deployed to U.S. Border Patrol stations along the southwest border, where Department of Defense personnel have been deployed to fill in surveillance gaps.

In FY ’23, Congress appropriated $68 million for the IST program that is going to the purchase of 51 ASTs, the purchase and deployment of five flat panel maritime radars on commercial towers to over waterways in Puget Sound, the upgrade of four legacy RVSS towers in a Border Patrol sector that covers New York, New Hampshire and Vermont, a tech refresh of NB-RVSS systems, and award of the CTSE contracts.

CBP in December 2022 issued a request for proposals for the CTSE program, with plans to acquire about 296 new surveillance towers and upgrade an estimated 191 legacy towers with new surveillance equipment.

The $66.4 million being requested for the COP will fund maturation, testing, training and transitioning to the initial operational capability at Border Patrol stations in Douglas, Ariz., and likely El Paso and Del Rio, Texas, and San Diego.

Currently, DoD provides staff for 33 Border Patrol command and control centers along the southwest border to field calls from mobile surveillance sites, monitor surveillance feeds, and help dispatch agents. The purpose of the COP is to replace the “fragmented” command and control centers and integrate the surveillance feeds into few centers requiring less staff to monitor feeds, CBP says in the budget documents.

CBP also says it has been integrating artificial intelligence into the development of the COP, which will automate surveillance monitoring for the identification, classification and tracking of items of interest, and alert operators for items to be monitored. The agency says that the command-and-control staff will be able to send notifications to Border Patrol agents in the field via their mobile phones, allowing the agents to view coordinates, photos and full motion video of items of interest.

The FY ’24 budget request also includes $305.4 million for the non-intrusive inspection (NII) program, with some of the funding going toward construction costs to complete the installation of already procured multi-energy portal (MEP), low-energy portal (LEP), and high-energy rail NII systems, a CBP spokeswoman told Defense Daily on Monday.

Some of the NII funds will also go toward improved capabilities to detect fentanyl in mail and express consignment environments, improve algorithms for the adjudication of images to support frontline personnel in identifying prohibited items and better integrate NII capabilities into current systems and data flows, she said.

“All of the funds are geared toward the disruption of the illegal flow if fentanyl into the United States,” she said.

Congress appropriated $69.9 million for the NII program in FY ’23. CBP is in the early stages of deploying the LEP and MEP systems, which are new capabilities that will allow agency officers to scan passenger occupied and commercial occupied vehicles, respectively, as they drive toward the primary inspection booths at land ports of entry along the southern border. Legacy systems require the occupants to exit their vehicles before scanning.

The spokeswoman said that the goal of getting 40 percent of passenger vehicles and 70 percent of cargo-carrying vehicles scanned during primary inspection within the next few years is covered by prior year NII appropriations. Currently, CBP inspects 1 to 2 percent of passenger vehicles and about 15 percent of cargo conveyances at the border.