The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of a fiscal year 2019 spending bill that prioritizes building physical barriers along the southern border more so than additional technology deployments.
The committee’s markup last week of the Department of Homeland Security’s spending bill includes $1.6 billion for physical barriers and related infrastructure, the same as requested, although instead of the solid structures wanted by President Trump, the funds will go for fencing. In this case, the recommendation covers 65 miles of pedestrian fencing in the Custom and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas.
Trump is seeking $25 billion overall for physical barriers along the southern border and would like Congress to fund all of it at once. The administration has described its plans for physical barriers as a “border wall system,” which includes the barriers, infrastructure, and sensors and technology, although so far it hasn’t released a detailed description of its plans for an integrated wall system.
“As a physical barrier is but one component of a border security system, the Committee believes it is imperative to integrate appropriate sensor technology, including fiber optics and camera systems, with the barrier system,” according to the committee’s report accompanying its version of the FY ’18 DHS appropriations bill. “The Committee continues to believe that a detailed plan is necessary to accurately estimate future costs of a physical barrier along parts of the southern border and includes bill language requiring an updated risk-based plan for improving security along the borders of the United States.”
Spending on technology between the ports of entry is limited in the committee’s recommendation, which is in line with the request. The biggest chunk of technology spending, $43.7 million, is for the Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS). General Dynamics [GD] is the prime contractor for the RVSS.
The bill also proposes $2 million for the Integrated Fixed Tower system, which is being deployed by Elbit Systems [ESLT] and $1.6 million for the Mobile Video Surveillance System, which is supplied by the Tactical Micro unity of Secure Technology Company.
The committee gave a shout out in its report to the Mobile Surveillance Capability, which are mobile surveillance tower systems integrated with radar and infrared cameras, and are particularly useful in rugged terrain for improving situational awareness. The MSCs are supplied by Flir Corp. [FLIR] and the Telephonics unit of Griffon Corp. [GFF].
“Given the success of this program, the Committee directs CBP to expand the surveillance capability of MSCs by integrated Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), which could allow for the distribution of real-time aerial surveillance data to agents I the field,” the report says. It adds that the panel added $4 million above the request to pilot test and develop requirements for integrated MSC and sUAS operations.
A CBP spokesman told Defense Daily that the agency is not currently operating any sUAS, although it did conduct a pilot test with the systems that finished in March.
In other technology areas for CBP, the committee recommends $174.2 million to recapitalize and acquire non-intrusive inspection (NII) systems, which are used at ports of entry to inspect vehicles and containers for contraband and other illicit goods and materials. The appropriation is $130 million more than requested and the panel directs that at least $30 million be used for equipment to detect opioids at ports of entry.
The bill also includes $1 million above the request for the Cross Border Tunnel Threat program.