Customs and Border Protection to expand wireless test

The Homeland Security Department will start a second wireless test of its Border Net project in the Great Lakes region of the United States.

Rod MacDonald, the Customs and Border Protection Directorate’s assistant commissioner, said May 21 that the program will build on lessons learned in an Arizona pilot test, which examined how different devices connected to the directorate’s database through assorted wireless connections.

“The Arizona pilot was pretty successful,” MacDonald said during a panel discussion at the Homeland Security Science and Technology Stakeholders Conference in Washington. “We will now talk to [the Secure Border Initiative] about how to bring those lessons learned into the program.”

MacDonald said that because SBInet will focus on the southern border first, testing the technologies on the northern border lets CBP explore different environments and get out ahead of a multibillion-dollar program.

MacDonald said he didn’t know exactly when the northern border test would begin, but it should happen this summer.

The Border Net test showed how border agents could connect to CBP’s database through notebook PCs and personal digital assistants through technologies such as WiMax, cellular, Wi-Fi and Mesh.

As CBP looks to expand its test, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in need of better logistics technology and improved imagery and mapping services.

Marko Bourne, FEMA’s director of policy, said the agency would like to be able to mine more detail from maps and geographical information systems data. FEMA also is looking for more advanced modeling technology that would help provide options during disasters as they unfold.

“We need to know where stuff is in real time, when they will get there during disasters,” he said. “We need to have a better asset inventory of what we have or what is available to us.”

Other DHS directorates, such as Citizen and Immigration Services, need more simple technology. CIS Deputy Director John Scharfen said the directorate needs a case management system to handle the flood of immigration application and benefit requests it gets. CIS currently uses a paper system, he said.

“We need to take files and digitize them and on the front end take in applications electronically,” Scharfen said. “Right now, we can’t search individuals by name and we are not sure we get all the information or all their applications.”

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