Past Features

December 31, 2015

New Virtual Fence "Works"
How do we know?

Integrated Fixed Tower west of Nogales, Arizona -- Photo by Glenn Spencer
Arizona Daily Star -- December 26, 2015  
Officials: Past border tech efforts failed, but this one won't
    Previous attempts to use technology to secure the U.S.-Mexico border have blown through more than $1 billion and have missed their mark.
    But border officials say they have it right this time. After several delays, the first phase of Arizona's technology plan to secure the border is finished --- and others will soon follow.
    Seven of 52 planned Integrated Fixed Towers are functional in Nogales. The solar-powered towers are about 80 feet tall, with radar and day-and-night cameras that send real-time video footage to a Border Patrol command post.
    Officials estimate they can start construction in Douglas and possibly Sonoita by January, after the Chief of the Border Patrol certifies that they work.
    The towers are part of a larger Arizona border-surveillance plan announced in 2011 after the government canceled a failed $1 billion program. The plan includes a combination of ground sensors, long-range night-vision scopes mounted on trucks, binoculars, and fixed towers with and without radar.
    The Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan is expected to be fully operational by fiscal 2020. That's five years after the initial estimate, but CBP officials say that's due more to future funding than to their ability to deploy the technology.
    Once the entire program is completed, it will give the Border Patrol 90 percent situational awareness, which basically means knowing what's going on, said Fernando Grijalva, assistant chief over the communications department in the Tucson Sector.
    But first it must win approval from lawmakers, who are determined to avoid the mismanagement and cost overruns that brought down previous programs.

Glenn Spencer -- American Border Patrol
What is going on?
    According to the assistant chief over communications for the Tucson Sector, the new Integrated Fixed Towers will give the Border Patrol “90 percent situational awareness”, i.e., they know what is going on. What the hell does that mean?
    According to the law, the job of the Department of Homeland Security is to achieve operational control of the border.
    Back in 2006, then Secretary Chertoff said it would take five years to achieve operational control of the border.
    We are now told that the new Integrated Fixed Tower system, which is of questionable value, won't be finished until 2020 --- nine years after we were to have complete operational control.
    There is no question that DHS/CBP works overtime to avoid accountability, and members of Congress seem to be more than happy to let them fritter away billions of dollars without holding them to legally defined performance standards.
    That is what is going on.
PS: President Trump should "take no prisoners" as he cleans house at DHS/CBP.