Under its recent $20 million contract to install legacy surveillance systems at two locations along the nation’s northern border, Boeing [BA] will begin those deployments in the next two to three months, according to the federal official in charge of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI).
Boeing will deploy 11 Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) in the Border Patrol’s Detroit, Mich., sector, and five systems in the Buffalo, N.Y., sector (TR2, April 1). The contract is for one year and project activities are expected to conclude by the end of the year, Mark Borkowski, executive director for SBI at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), tells TR2. The one-year contract runs through March 30, 2010.
CBP already has a number of RVSS systems deployed along the country’s southwest border with Mexico.
For the Northern Border Project, CBP acquired the RVSS towers as well as the day and night cameras, which were purchased from L-3 Communications‘ [LLL] Cincinnati Electronics business unit, for Boeing to install and integrate. Boeing will also provide the video feeds to the Border Patrol station headquarters in Detroit and Buffalo, Borkowski says.
The cost for the towers and cameras was $10 million. For each tower, there are two bundles, with each bundle consisting of a day camera and a night imaging camera. The task order with Boeing is a separate contracting activity.
The pending Northern Border deployment of the RVSS equipment will provide a proof-of-concept capability and an immediate operation utility, Borkowski says. In the Detroit area, the systems will be deployed along stretches of the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair, providing a mix of riverine and urban environments to test the capabilities of the technology, and freeing up some Border Patrol agents who currently stand watch over the river into Canada.
In Buffalo, the towers will be placed along the Niagara River.
The video feeds into the two station headquarters will allow Border Patrol commanders to deploy their agents where needed, Borkowski says.
These initial deployments will not include a sophisticated Common Operating Picture that is currently planned for the more sophisticated SBInet deployment that is set to get underway on the southwest border. The RVSS basically allow for remote manual control of the cameras. For each tower there will be a single monitor at the Border Patrol station to switch between the affixed cameras, which are set up at different angles to ensure coverage of a wider area, K.C. Milligan, CBP’s program manager for the Northern Border Project, tells TR2.
The station set up will be the same as for the southwest border stations, there will be a “wall of monitors” and agents will use joy sticks to control the cameras, Milligan says.
Before the RVSS towers and cameras can be installed, CBP still has to acquire land, and with Boeing’s help, do environmental siting, and in some cases where the deployments are remote, and ensure there is a power supply where towers are remote.
More Northern Border Plans
The deployment of the RVSS is just one facet of a larger first step on the northern border, Borkowski says. CBP has already contracted with Griffon Corp.‘s [GFF] Telephonics subsidiary for three Mobile Surveillance Sensors (MSS) that will be delivered in May. The MSS are also in use on the southwest border. Two of the systems will be deployed to the Border Patrol’s sector in Swainton, Vt., and the other to the Detroit Sector.
The MSS deployment will not require a contract to Boeing. Instead, CBP will turn the systems over to the Border Patrol, which will take delivery of the equipment and begin operating it, he says.
Boeing is CBP’s prime contractor for SBInet, which is moving toward limited operational deployments on the southwest border. That effort had been delayed going back nearly two years due to a variety of factors, including integration challenges with the cameras, radars and communication technology that are affixed to towers in remote stretches of the border.
CBP believes that issues that surfaced during system qualification testing late last year have been resolved and is now doing a detailed analysis to confirm that, Borkowski says. Those test issues were not unexpected. Once that analysis is complete, he expects Boeing will begin construction activities in the Tucson-1 Sector of Arizona later this month. Start of construction for a second deployment in Arizona, called Ajo-1, is still planned to begin around June, he says.
The goal of SBInet is to provide Border Patrol stations, and by extension Border Patrol agents, more tools to provide a greater degree of situational awareness on illegal immigration and drug smuggling than currently exists.
Separately, at the start of this month Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that $50 million will be obligated for SBInet to accelerate deployment of surveillance technology and associated command and control technologies in Arizona, including deployment in Nogales and Sonoita stations, and $50 million to pay for tactical communications modernization for the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley Sectors.
Napolitano mentioned the SBInet funding as part of a larger announcement on DHS’ spending plans under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, a DHS spokeswoman later told TR2 that the SBInet funds were not coming from the Recovery Act.
As for the accelerated deployment, the Nogales and Sonoita stations will not be rushed ahead of Tucson-1 and Ajo-1 and are considered part of the build out for the rest of Arizona.