The House Appropriations Committee on June 11 marked up its version of Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal year 2020 spending bill, recommending that Customs and Border Protection assess contractor provided services for border security technology procurement, a radical departure from the current model that relies on agency officers to operate security equipment.

“As CBP procures additional border security systems, whether new or existing technologies, the Committee encourages the Commissioner to evaluate whether a subscription model would: (1) align incentives to keep systems updated as technology improves; (2) provide more flexibility to upgrade systems; (3) allow border security systems to be deployed faster by reducing initial costs; and (4) reduce the total cost to the government,” the committee says in its report accompanying its proposed spending bill.

The provision doesn’t specify whether the managed services would be at or between ports of entry, although it’s more likely this support would be at ports of entry. Rapiscan Systems, which is the security division of OSI Systems [OSIS], provides its non-intrusive inspection equipment and personnel for screening for at ports of entry for Albania, Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S. territory Puerto Rico.

Once the FY ’20 DHS spending bill is signed into law, the committee wants a report from CBP within 60 days on the results of its evaluation of the subscription model.

CBP is already examining the potential of contractor owned and operated services for manned and unmanned aircraft in support of law enforcement operations conducted by the agency’s Office of Air and Marine Operations. In March, CBP issued a Request for Information related to these services and said it expects to eventually award contracts worth up to $250 million in total over five years to two contractors.

The contractors would provide near-continuous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations over designated areas. CBP is seeking 6,000 flight hours annually.

HAC Approves DHS Bill

The committee on June 11 approved a $49.7 billion net discretionary spending bill for DHS, sending the measure to the House along a party line vote with 29 Democrats in favor and 20 Republicans opposed.

Republican Kay Granger (R-Texas), the ranking member on the committee, just as she did when the Homeland Security Subcommittee approved the bill the previous week, warned that the bill isn’t likely to enacted because it doesn’t provide any of the $5 billion requested by the Trump administration for additional physical barriers on the southwest border.

Driving the partisan divide over the bill on the committee are elimination of funding for construction of the barriers and cuts for new Border Patrol agents as well as to the budget request for Immigration and Customs Enforcement related to interior enforcement operations, migrant detention and removal operations.

“Because DHS has failed to fully comply with the requirement in the fiscal year 2018 funding bill to provide a risk-based plan for improving border security, the bill provides no funding for new additional barriers,” Rep. Lucille Royal-Allard (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee, said in her opening remarks of the markup. “At the very least, a validated plan should be in place before we consider spending any more taxpayer dollars on new border barriers,” she added.

Otherwise, Democrats and Republicans on the committee agree there is broad bipartisan support related to provisions in their bill to increase spending on the Coast Guard, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Secret Service and Transportation Security Administration.

The proposed bill does increase spending for border security technology and would add new positions for CBP for officers at ports of entry.