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CBP begins implementing its updated border security strategy

Having cancelled its much-maligned SBInet surveillance program along the U.S.-Mexican border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is back on the street with a new request for information (RFI) about currently existing commercial off-the-shelf surveillance systems that could operate from fixed towers at elevated sites and provide “persistent wide area surveillance” that could detect humans and vehicles moving across an area of approximately 25 miles deep by 20 to 35 miles wide.

CBP says it is “not at this time seeking proposals,” but it has requested capabilities statements by Feb. 8 from vendors who claim they can meet a long list of technical requirements spelled out in a presolicitation notice published by CBP on Jan. 28.

That notice describes a potential program to install “Integrated Fixed Towers” (IFTs) that could detect “items of interest,” which it defines as “humans, humans mounted on animals and conveyances such as All Terrain Vehicles (ATV), motorcycles, automobiles, and trucks.”

The desired surveillance system would be able to: (1) automatically identify items of interest, (2) determine the size of the group, (3) display the information across a “common operating picture” (COP), so an operator sitting in a command center can follow the group’s movements, (4) incorporate data feeds from “legacy” surveillance systems, and (5) “vector responding agents” to the area of interest.

Many of these state-of-the-art capabilities are incorporated in “ClearView,” a new border surveillance system which Raytheon Company began promoting in recent months, as reported in a GSN article published on Oct. 17, 2010.

CBP said in its presolicitation notice that these Integrated Fixed Towers will be competitively awarded.

“CBP intends to procure an existing, fully developed, and integrated system that makes maximum use of an open systems approach,” declared CBP’s notice. “There is no intent to develop any items or systems under this program.”

Such a commitment to procuring “off-the-shelf” products may stem from the disappointments CBP and DHS experienced with its earlier SBInet program, which suffered from shortcomings in both some of its individual components (e.g., the cameras had a hard time maintaining their focus on distant objects) and the integration of various components.

Even so, it is not clear that any system has been fully developed and has worked out all the kinks that are inherent in such a demanding surveillance mission.

According to CBP, the next off-the-shelf system must stand up to “adverse and extreme weather conditions and in harsh environments such as deserts and rugged, mountainous terrain…” The system must also be able to determine from long distances the size of a group of pedestrians or vehicles, whether they are backpacking, and whether they are carrying “nonconcealed long arms.” The system must be able to capture items of interest on Full Motion Video (FMV) and automatically slew an FMV camera to keep tracking that person or vehicle until the operator decides otherwise. In addition, the desired system must be “self powered for continuous operation” and be able to “provide secure communication of sensor data” to the designated common operating picture.

After CBP gathers and examines the company profiles and capability statements from prospective vendors, it intends to conduct “one-on-one discussions” with companies that can offer “existing, fully developed, and integrated system solutions.”

CBP announced on Jan. 27 that following a department-wide assessment of SBInet, Secretary Janet Napolitano concluded “there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to meet our border technology needs.”

Instead, DHS is developing a new border technology strategy which has been divided into three solution areas: agent-centric solutions, which recognize that border patrol agents – who are the primary resources between U.S. ports of entry – need better portable detection, tracking and identification gear; mobile sensor solutions, which can be transported and erected quickly by individual border patrol agents, and fixed sensor solutions, which can be installed at fixed sites.

CBP is planning to hold an Industry Day for vendors interested in providing such systems at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, AZ, on February 17, from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM. Attendance is limited to three individuals per company. A CBP registration form to attend this Industry Day is available here.




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