Border guards eye surveillance

Border Patrol site for ISIS America's Shield Initiative

Armed with a revised mission to fight terrorism, U.S. Border Patrol officials plan to expand and integrate technology surveillance systems during the next several years.

The federal law enforcement agency is looking to enhance the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System (ISIS) that includes remote video surveillance cameras; intelligent computer-aided dispatch systems; seismic, magnetic and infrared sensors; and other types of equipment.

Border Patrol officials, who held an industry day today for interested technology vendors near Washington, D.C., said the requirements for an improved ISIS, which was formally developed in 1997 as a consolidated program, could cost as much as $2 billion during the next several years.

"It's not as good as it could be and we know that," said Michael Gambale, the Border Patrol's assistant chief and ISIS program manager, referring to the technology.

Today's industry day is the first of at least two to inform potential bidders of Border patrol officials' expectations. Officials want to address stand-alone systems and a cumbersome and time-consuming process for agents who must process individuals or access databases.

The ISIS America's Shield Initiative would address many gaps that field agents face daily, they said. Gaps include insufficient electronic border coverage; aging or inadequate equipment; limited capability of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive detectors; and sensors unable to distinguish between animals and humans.

Agents also lack interoperable radio communications with other federal, state, local, tribal law enforcement agents and one another. They also cannot access various federal databases, such as those containing criminal information and fingerprints, for example, and share information quickly and efficiently.

A new system would be more intelligence driven, allowing Border Patrol offices and agents to be more proactive rather than reactive. Officials are developing an enterprise architecture and are also seeking feedback from vendors and others through asi@mitre.org.

The Border Patrol has more than 11,200 agents monitoring northern, southern and coastal borders, which total more than 15,600 miles. While the agency's main focus is antiterrorism, officials said that will not diminish their ongoing activities to deter illegal entries, detect and seize smugglers and contraband and reduce crime in border communities. The agency makes about 1 million arrests annually.

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