Homeland Security

CBP deputy seeks 1,000-mile border wall system

8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego 

Border wall prototypes, as tweeted by CPB San Diego. 

Customs and Border Protection is committed to providing a broad mix of barriers, technology and personnel to secure the border, but the Trump administration's proposed border wall is very much part of those plans, a top CBP official said.

"The truth is that walls work and the data shows it," said Ronald Vitiello, Customs and Border Protection's acting deputy commissioner, in a March 30 briefing. "Walls work and agents know it," he added.

Vitiello said 654 miles of the border are currently equipped with physical barriers, including fencing and short vehicle walls that were put in place under the 2006 Secure Fence Act.

He said CBP hopes to support 1,000 miles of physical barrier along the 1,900 mile-long border.

Congress funded $1.57 billion for construction of more than 90 miles of wall for fiscal 2018, mostly in the form of improvements to existing barriers and levees. Vitiello called that funding a "down payment" on the remainder of the complete wall system.

He also brushed aside a late-March report from the Democratic staff of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that said Border Patrol agents "rarely" asked for a wall to address capability gaps.

The March 22 report contends that border patrol agents haven't asked for border walls or fencing through the agency's Capability Gap Analysis Process, which identifies vulnerabilities on the southwest border.

"DHS and CBP are fully committed to a balanced investment in physical infrastructure, access and patrol road, technology and personnel to support its critical border security mission," said Vitiello during the briefing. "From an operator's perspective, you need a proper mix of technology, infrastructure and agents."

Trump's 2019 budget request for DHS includes $1.6 billion for 65 miles of new wall construction, with an eye to spending $18 billion over 10 years. The report suggests that border tech is getting the short shrift by comparison.

Remote and mobile video surveillance capabilities and integrated fixed towers are slated for funding at $47 million under the 2019 budget. That budget, said the report, doesn't include funding for the CBP's Border Tunnel Threat program, unattended ground sensors or tethered aerostat radar systems.

Vitello said the report's claim that border agents rarely request a wall "isn't an accurate interpretation of the data that we have" from those operators.

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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