DHS to issue RFP for border control technology

Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff said today that his department will soon issue a request for proposals for an integrated package of next-generation technologies to secure the country’s borders.

The department has been planning to increase the use of newer technologies at the borders with Mexico and Canada to help Border Patrol agents monitor and curb the tide of illegal immigration.

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Chertoff provided more details about DHS’ Secure Border Initiative, a multiyear effort to add more agents to the borders, improve processes for detention and removal, and develop technological infrastructure to help agents monitor areas.

He said the department recently established a program office to oversee the solicitation process. Although he was vague about when the RFP would be issued, Chertoff said the department will seek proposals that integrate more advanced sensors with remote cameras, aerial surveillance and possibly satellite technology. He also said DHS will look to the U.S. military for training and technologies that could benefit border security.

Chertoff also mentioned that the department is in discussions with the Federal Aviation Administration to expand the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) along Arizona’s border with Mexico. He said since the beginning of fiscal 2006, the UAVs have been involved in the interdiction of more than 1,000 illegal aliens and more than 400 pounds of narcotics.

Department officials said technology is an important component in its multilayered approach, which also includes adding more agents to the borders to control the flow of illegal immigrants.

The Border Patrol, which is part of the Customs and Border Protection agency, has been planning to use more technology in its mission. In August 2004, the agency met with vendors to see how it could beef up the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System, which was then renamed America’s Shield Initiative before folding it into the Secure Border Initiative.

The agency wants to upgrade the system with remote video surveillance cameras, intelligent computer-aided dispatch systems, seismic, magnetic and infrared sensors, and other types of equipment.

At the press conference, Chertoff also said the department wants to provide employers with a convenient, efficient way to verify employees in a temporary worker program. He alluded to the need of creating a technology infrastructure and database to help ensure workplace compliance, but did not specify how that would work.

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