In this stretch of the U.S.-Mexican border, the U.S. is on the left. (Gerald L Nino / CBP.gov)
The Department of Homeland Security has taken a positive step in one of the longer running procurement sagas of recent years, issuing downselect notices to several contractors to compete in the next phase of a controversial border security program, sources confirm.
Although details of which companies received the notices are still sketchy, DHS confirmed to Defense News that the notices went out late last week, and two people with knowledge of the program have offered that General Dynamics, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and the American arm of the Israeli company Elbit have been selected to demonstrate their solutions for the government’s Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) solicitation.
A final contract award is expected in the September/October time frame of this year, a slight slip form the August target that had been floated earlier.
The IFT program is an ambitious attempt to install a series of surveillance towers along the US/Mexico border. The idea is to deploy a series of networked, integrated fixed towers (IFTs) equipped with radar and cameras that will “be able to detect a single, walking, average-sized adult” at a range of 5 miles to 7.5 miles during day or night, while sending close to real-time video footage back to agents manning a command post.
Government documents have pegged the contract’s value at about $1.1 billion, and the DHS fiscal 2014 budget request asked for $77.4 million for the IFT program.
Customs and Border Protection was originally expected to make a selection late last summer or early fall, but officials said that due to the larger-than-expected number of submissions, it would take them longer to evaluate the options.
The IFT program comes with a huge amount of baggage given the well-publicized failure of its precursor, the Secure Border Initiative (SBInet), which was canceled in January 2011 after spending $1 billion over six years while managing to cover only 53 miles of the 389-mile Arizona border.
That program’s goals were essentially the same as that of the IFT program – to line the southern border region with a series of networked, fixed surveillance towers that would give border patrol agents real-time intelligence on who, or what, was moving about along the Mexican border.
Boeing was the lead integrator on the project, and company officials are quick to point out that even with the program’s cancellation, they did install 23 working tower sites in the Ajo and Tucson-1 sectors in the Arizona desert, all of which have been operating very successfully since March 2011.