Past Features

October 7, 2017

McCain - McSally attack on border
technology management raises questions

GlennSpencer -- October 7, 2017  
The strange McCain-McSally 2017 border bill - CYA?
    On Wednesday, Oct. 4, as I sat waiting for a Homeland Security hearing --- which I knew would be late in starting --- I turned on my nearby video camera and began recording random thoughts. My random thoughts went on for fourteen minutes, and, after looking at the result, I decided to make a little video using the footage. Yesterday, American Border Patrol posted the video as my Border-Side Chat.
    Little did I know that at the very time I was making this video --- which dealt mainly with the Integrated Fixed Tower project --- that a Senate Committee would be passing a bill introduced by Sen. John McCain that seemed to deal with that very subject.
    When I first read the press reports, I jumped to the conclusion that McCain was aware that on-going tests of the IFTs were not going well and decided to get out ahead of the issue.
    That may still be true, but I was to learn that McCain had introduced his bill --- together with Rep. Martha McSally --- nine months ago --- on January 12, 2017.
    According to McCain --- back in January: “New technologies such as video and radar surveillance are critical to securing our borders,” said Senator McCain. “However, widespread mismanagement and a lack of accountability within our federal bureaucracy has prevented us from using these technologies to stop illegal immigration…"
    As it is the premier CBP new technology effort that uses both video and radar --- and the only one that seems to be in trouble --- McCain had to be referring to the Integrated Fixed Tower project.
    At the time McSally and McCain introduced their legislation in January, there were seven Integrated Fixed Tower being used by CBP near Nogales, Arizona. The original contract was delayed by a challenge brought by Raytheon in July of 2014, however this was finally resolved and the seven IFTs passed initial tests in the late summer of 2015.
    These towers were certified by CBP on March 1, 2016, as meeting its operational requirements.
    On August 8, 2016, Elbit Systems reported that Government Security News gave the Integrated Fixed Tower an award which it presents annually “to top leaders in new technologies and innovative security strategies" for Airport, Seaport, and Border Security.
    McCain said “widespread mismanagement” had prevented the government from using “these technologies”. If he was referring to the seven IFT towers near Nogales --- they were being used --- and had been in use by CBP for nine months.
    Eight more IFT towers were planned for the Douglas “AOR” --- and were near completion, or had been completed in December of 2016 --- as one image from Google Earth shows.
    How could “mismanagement" keep us from using eight tower near Douglas --- they had barely been completed? Was he just talking about delays?
    Eight more IFTs were planed for in and near the Coronado National Forest. The McCain-McSally bill was introduced on January 12, but there is strong evidence that actual construction on the Coronado towers didn't actually start until after January 12.
    How could we be kept from using those towers --- they hadn't been built yet. Again, McCain seemed to be suggesting the problem was scheduling, but as I reported in my Border-side chat, in July, GAO had said there have been improvement in scheduling. The real problem was lack of performance metrics.
    McCain-McSally need to answer questions about their border management bill --- and why the issues were never brought up by McSally in her Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee or in the new border bill just passed by Chairman McCaul's committee?
    If, as I suspect, the IFT tests currently underway turn out badly --- could it be that the McCain-McSally bill was a well-worn practice of planting a CYA to be dug up if and when needed?