Skinner: Border Surveillance System Needs Better Integration

Although $429 million has been spent since 1998 to install video surveillance cameras and sensors at U.S. borders, the cameras are not fully integrated with the sensors and it is not clear whether the system is increasing border control agents’ productivity, according to a new report from Homeland Security Department inspector general Richard L. Skinner.

Overall, the surveillance procurement has been marred by delays, cost overruns and ineffective oversight, the IG found. The procurement problems resulted in more than $37 million in DHS funds being left in General Services Administration financial accounts, delays in bringing sites into operation and 168 incomplete remote video surveillance sites.

“Several limitations of border surveillance and remote assessment and monitoring technology as well as significant delays and cost overruns in the procurement of the Remote Video Surveillance System have impeded the success of the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System,” the report said.

A recurring concern is a high rate of false alarms, which are as high as 90 percent, the report said. The false alarms indicated such events as movement of local traffic, animals and trains.

As the Bush administration implements the America’s Shield Initiative—an expanded border surveillance system with cameras, sensors and both stationery and mobile platforms—the report recommends that DHS’ Customs and Border Protection agency work on maximizing integration opportunities and on ensuring that future investments can be integrated.

CBP officials, in their management response, said they are working to integrate existing capabilities with the America’s Shield Initiative (ASI). New multiple-sensory, monitoring and information technologies will be procured after an America’s Shield integration and development contractor is chosen in September 2006, the report said.

However, also in the report, the Office of Border Patrol is quoted saying it expects to select the prime integrator for ASI by July 2006.

The multibillion-dollar ASI border surveillance system is expected to be folded into the new Secure Border Initiative recently announced by Secretary Michael Chertoff.

(Newsbytes -- 12/20/05)

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