Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who's Who in the Border Protection Competition

Who's Who in the Border Protection Competition: "
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We’re finally getting a look at some of the technologies that companies are submitting to the Department of Homeland Security in consideration for deployment along the Arizona/Mexico border.

The DHS’ Mark Borkowski recently gave industry the details of what he is looking for in the $750 million worth of contracts that the government is ready to hand out for new surveillance gear, and now we’re starting to hear from industry. Since Borkowski says that he wants to have all of his technology needs under contract within a year, lots of money is going to start flying around very soon, and industry is winding up with their best fastballs.

In a story for the April issue of DTI, I spoke with several companies involved in the bidding. One company in the hunt for post-SBInet contracts is DRS Technologies, which is submitting a version of the border surveillance system it has already provided to Jordan.

In 2009 the company delivered networked ground surveillance radars and electro-optic/infrared camera bundles that feed back into a common operating picture, much like what the DHS wants to do along the U.S./Mexico border. The company is also in the final stages of receiving a sole-source award for an additional phase of the Jordanian program.

“We designed [the Jordanian system] as an architecture that can be incrementally applied to the entire border region,” says Jim Hynes, executive director for DHS and Force Protection Systems. The question now is “how do we leverage that and provide the U.S. government with a similar capability” along the Mexican border.

Raytheon is also thought to be in the mix, though they declined to comment. I spoke to company reps about their Clear View system late last year, and the combination of cameras, sensors, operating and tracking software, and command-and-control system looks like it lines up with much of what the government is looking for.

As for Boeing—the lead integrator on the SBInet program—the company appears interested in participating in the competition to supply more fixed integrated towers, and representatives for the company have said that it believes it can drive down the cost per mile from its existing towers. Borkowski told me he’s open to listen to Boeing’s pitches (don’t forget, SBInet towers are operating effectively in Arizona), telling me that Boeing is “certainly welcome” to bid on the integrated fixed-tower procurement. He sees Boeing’s towers as a high-end version of what he wants, and asks, “Is there value, do I really need that, or can I do nearly as well or just as well with a lower-end version?”

Pic: Northcom"

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