Past Features

October 10, 2017

Do IFTs Measure Up?

"But Borkowski said one of the major differences between the tower sets in SBInet and the new program is the towers will not blanket an entire area of responsibility, inclusive of clutter such as hills and mountains --- but rather only locations where the cameras have clear visibility."
Glenn Spencer -- October 10
The operation was a success, but the patient died
    Four years ago, the New York Times ran an excellent piece on measuring border security --- Officials Concede Failures on Gauging Border Security.
    It contained this revealing paragraph:
    
Obama administration officials said on Thursday that they had resisted producing a single measure to assess the border because the president did not want any hurdles placed on the pathway to eventual citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.
    This philosophy of avoiding a metric for border security trickled down into the way we purchased technology for border security.
    As he planned the follow-on for the failed Boeing virtual fence --- now called Integrated Fixed Towers -- Mark Borkowski told NextGov dot com
    
"But Borkowski said one of the major differences between the tower sets in SBInet and the new program is the towers will not blanket an entire area of responsibility, inclusive of clutter such as hills and mountains --- but rather only locations where the cameras have clear visibility.”'
    In his May 23, 2017 written testimony before a Senate panel, CBP Commissioner Ronald D. Vitiello said:
    
"For example, fixed systems provide line-of-sight surveillance coverage to efficiently detect incursions in flat terrain."
    In the Request for Proposal for the Integrated Fixed Towers program, bidders were told that the system must have the capability to:
    
"detect a single, walking, average-sized adult at a range of 5 miles (T) / 7.5 miles (O) under the following conditions: daylight and darkness; Line of Sight (LoS) ranging from clear LoS to partial obstruction (50% to 95% blockage of the individual for periods of 1-3 seconds); sustained wind speeds up to 10 MPH with gusts up to 15 MPH. (KPP) 5 miles 7.5 miles”
    There was no requirement to provide a defined level of border protection - only that an average-sized adult can be seen on a flat earth with scattered bushes or trees.
    Yet, such requirements seemed to be part of the original SBInet system, as Borkowski told FCW.com four years ago
    
"One of the requirements is that the SBInet system detect 70 percent of the intruders within range. To place the towers when SBInet was being designed, we asked: How do the intruders tend to come into this location? What are the paths --- by foot and/or by auto? So in the Tucson-1 segment we outlined 55 routes.“  
    We could find no such requirement in the IFT RFP.
    Borkowski said the new IFTs will not be placed where there is “clutter such as hills and mountains.” and will be place “only where the cameras have clear visibility.”
    When we looked at the IFT installation near Nogales, Arizona, we found they were placed in hills and mountains --- and had no clear visibility.
    We found that the IFTs placed in and near the Coronado Forest were seriously hampered by a dense forest and deep washes and arroyos.
    Similar problems were seen for IFTs installed near Douglas, Arizona.
    It could turn out that the contractor is paid fully for his work because he met all of the requirements of the RFP, even though the system failed to aid in securing the border.
    In other words, the operation was a success --- but the patient died.

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