Not only is ISIS incomplete, the amount of time it has taken to make sites operational has been lengthy, Skinner said. On average camera installations, mounted on towers averaging 70-feet tall, took 20 months he said.
Given that the first deployments of ASI are planned in FY '07, Skinner suggested that DHS has its work cut out.
"To meet the ambitious goals of ASI, a significant number of additional surveillance structures and supporting infrastructure will likely be required," Skinner said. "Once land access is obtained, environmental assessments will need to be performed for all sites considered for RVS (remote video surveillance) camera, repeater tower, and supporting power infrastructure installations." Some of these land access procedures could take months, he added, and could be further delayed by special interest groups opposing the towers.
Skinner also said that UAVs that will be used by the Border Patrol present certain challenges. Border Patrol officials told him that the unmanned aircraft cost more than twice the amount of money to operate than manned aircraft and that so far UAVs have resulted in few seizures of illegal aliens. However, these costs were based on leased UAVs as opposed to purchase ones, which Border Patrol maintains would be less expensive, he said. He said the leasing costs per hour for two UAVs the Border Patrol has operated so far are $1,351 for the Israeli Hermes and $923 for the Northrop Grumman [NOC] Hunter. The Border Patrol is purchasing a General Atomics-built Predator UAV.
UAVs also don't do as well in certain poor weather conditions, which can also limit their sensor packages, he said. Still, Skinner said the UAVs have a major advantage over manned aircraft in that they can stay airborne longer. As with the June hearing, subcommittee members, including Chairman Mike Rogers (R- Ala.), remain dismayed over what they said is "gross mismanagement" of the ISIS program.