Military contractors eye $2B in border control contracts
Report: Nation's top defense contractors to be asked to manage new high-tech approach to control illegal immigrants along borders.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The Bush administration is looking to military contractors for high tech help controlling the U.S. border, according to a published report.
The New York Times reported Thursday that three of the nation's largest defense contractors -- Lockheed Martin (Research), Raytheon (Research), Northrop Grumman (Research) -- have confirmed they plan to submit bids within two weeks for an estimated $2 billion federal contract to build what the paper reports the administration is calling a "virtual fence" along the nation's land borders. Two other companies, Boeing (Research) and Ericsson (Research), are also expected to bid.
The federal government is looking to use unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment to monitor rivers, deserts, mountains and settled areas that separate Mexico and Canada from the United States.
But beyond buying the type of high-tech equipment that these companies have already put to use in Afghanistan and Iraq, the paper reports that the administration will be asking the contractors to devise and build a whole new border strategy that ties together the personnel, technology and physical barriers.
"This is an unusual invitation," the deputy secretary of homeland security, Michael Jackson, told contractors this year at an industry briefing, according to the Times report. "We're asking you to come back and tell us how to do our business."
But the paper reports that the high-tech plan being bid now has many skeptics.
"We've been presented with expensive proposals for elaborate border technology that eventually have proven to be ineffective and wasteful," Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky, said at a hearing earlier this month, the paper reports.
The government has spent at least $425 million in the last decade to buy cutting-edge technology to monitor the border, with limited success, the paper reports. Nearly half of video cameras ordered in the late 1990's did not work or were not installed. A $6.8 million unmanned aerial vehicle bought to patrol a 300-mile stretch of the border in Arizona crashed last month.
And the paper says a report late last year by the homeland security inspector general showed that ground sensors installed produced false alarms in 92 percent of the cases they were triggered, forcing the border patrol to send out agents to respond to what turned out to be a passing wild animal, a train or other nuisances.
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