Homeland Security

Border tech bill clears Senate committee

Editorial Credit: Shutterstock.com Image ID: 319823171 Sen John McCain 2015 

Sen. John McCain (shown here in a 2015 photo) wants DHS to do a better job tracking price border technology projects. (Photo credit: Shutterstock.com)

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved a bill that would require "major" border technology acquisition programs at the Department of Homeland Security to have set cost, scheduling and performance targets, and have those limits approved by top managers before they proceed.

The Border Security Technology Accountability Act of 2017 was co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.). The legislation is aimed at keeping expensive border technology programs that will total over $300 million from appearing on "high risk" lists for waste fraud and abuse.

Along with baseline costs, scheduling and performance requirements, every border acquisition program would also require the DHS undersecretary for management to coordinate with the CBP commissioner to insure those requirements are met.

The two senior officials also would have to submit a plan to Congress outlining testing, and evaluation of the technologies.

"New technologies such as video and radar surveillance are critical to securing our borders," McCain said in a statement. "However, widespread mismanagement and a lack of accountability within our federal bureaucracy have prevented us from using these technologies to stop illegal immigration, put an end to human trafficking, and reduce crime in communities in Arizona and across the Southwest."

Committee passage comes on the heels of a critical oversight report that found excessive downtime and outages at different DHS operational outposts, as well as an over-reliance on obsolete IT.

"When I toured the U.S.–Mexico border earlier this year, I heard again and again from border patrol agents that what they need most is more technological resources," said McCaskill in a statement. "This bill will help ensure that law enforcement officials have technology that works and that they need to make our borders more secure."

The legislation now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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