A Competition Draws Similar Comparisons

Oct. 27, 2008

Dear Readers:

Operating under the radar, so to speak, private industry is busy at work trying to submit bids by the end of this month that represent a technology-fix for U.S. border patrol. This quiet, yet not so little, request from the Feds is part of the $2-billion Secure Border Initiative Project.

The Department of Homeland Security is looking for technology such as remote video surveillance cameras to be part of an overall solution to illegal border crossings. You may be thinking, “way out of my league.” Perhaps, but what’s interesting is, when you hear what the bidders’ concerns are, they speak of the same demands you are faced with when delivering the customer a comprehensive security solution.

“We have learned to be intensively focused on how the border patrol’s working process is, how they actually use it, and making sure it’s integrated. It’s a focus on the people and the process, not the sensors,” states Douglas Smith, director of government sales, Ericsson Inc. (Stockholm, Sweden).

“What is most technically challenging in Secure Border is to balance the amount of investment you need to get to the operational control of the borders. You have to manage the resources and how to best address the threat,” states Jay Dragone, vice president of Integrated Border Security Systems, Lockheed Martin Corp. (Bethesda, MD).

“Collecting surveillance data and delivering it where it is needed in the field draws on tactical intelligence systems and wireless capabilities,” states Sidney Fuchs, president of the civilian agencies group, Northrop Grumman Corp. (Los Angeles, CA)
“Our approach is to go to the border, experience it, and find out what works and what doesn’t work,” states Gene Blackwell, vice president of rapid initiatives, Raytheon Co. (Waltham, MA).

Integration is the dominant concern in this Secure Border competition. The Homeland Security Department has gotten low marks on the surveillance technology now deployed at the borders, much of it installed following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Reports say that camera equipment is poorly utilized and often slow to be installed and that sensors are so prone to false alarms that they could be set off by the movement of animals, trains or even wind—sound familiar?

In addition, it is a harsh environment including miles of desert and mountainous regions, with very little infrastructure in place. Other considerations include high or low bandwidth, wired or wireless networks, power sources and data storage—the same concerns you come up against when installing a network video surveillance system. It will be interesting to learn what solutions these four bidders present.