Technology plays smaller role in new border patrol strategy

The U.S. Border Patrol is preparing to release a new strategy for border protection that is multi-layered and risk-based, but apparently relatively light on technology. Instead it depends more heavily on personnel and management tactics.

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher said at a congressional hearing on May 8 that the agency has completed the new strategy. Fisher spoke about the strategy at the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing. However, the agency has not yet publicly released the strategy, a spokeswoman from Customs and Border Protection told Federal Computer Week on May 8. The document is expected to be published imminently.

The strategy comes at a time when apprehensions at the border are falling, reflecting a drop in attempted illegal immigration due to less attractive economic conditions within the United States.

In the fiscal 2013 budget request, the Homeland Security department supports more than 21,000 border patrol agents, 1,200 Air and Marine agents and 21,000 customs and border protection officers.

Fisher told the panel that CBP has deployed technology assets at the borders, including mobile surveillance units, thermal imaging systems, and various types of inspection equipment. There are 270 aircraft, nine drones and 301 maritime patrol vessels assisting with border surveillance.

The department also previously had constructed physical fencing along portions of the southwestern border and deployed the “SBInet” virtual fence electronic surveillance system along portions of the Arizona-Mexico border.

However, the new strategy does not rely heavily on technology, according to a May 8 news report by the Associated Press published by CBS News.

“The strategy makes only brief mention of technology in the wake of a failed $1 billion program that was supposed to put a network of cameras, ground sensors and radars along the entire border,” the Associated Press report said.

Fisher said at the hearing that the agency is moving more toward mobile surveillance like unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters and is still trying to weigh all the technology options.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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