Ambitious border protection project unveiled

Published 30 January 2006

DHA launches ambitious project to gain control over U.S. borders; this has been tried before, but the scope of this program may promise results

Mounting concern with the porous nature of U.S. borders, tough legislation by Congress, and growing impatience with the ineffectiveness of different piecemeal approaches to border security led DHS late last week to unveil a far-reaching plan to wrestle control of the U.S. northern and southern borders by hiring a systems integration contract team to carry out the Secure Border Initiative (SBI). DHS will issue RFPs in March, hold a pre-proposal conference in April to respond to questions from industry, and award a contract by 30 September to deploy new technology as part of a comprehensive security plan for the areas between ports of entry along the land borders. comes in place of the America’s Shield Initiative (ASI), the Border Patrol’s more limited and now defunct plan to modernize the sensor networks along the borders. The fiscal 2006 budget includes $31 million for ASI, but the sheer scope of means that the new project would cost much more. In a gathering for vendor representatives, DHS deputy secretary Michael Jackson said that secretary Michael Chertoff has called SBI as “one of most important public policy priorities.” Other officials attending the meeting were Deborah Spero, acting commissioner for Customs and Border Protection; Kevin Stevens, the acting program director for SBI in Customs and Border Protection; SBI program executive director Greg Giddens; and John Ely, SBI procurement executive.

Jackson said that DHS viewed SBI as nothing short of the nation’s first comprehensive attempt to gain control of the southern border. Jackson said that political conditions now are aligned to permit a thorough-going approach to border management. DHS plans to launch a Web site for and post a transcript of the industry day presentations there. The department will release details about the Web site on the Web site by the end of today.

Note to interested businesses: Jackson said that DHS expects vendors to form teams and to involve small businesses in their SBI proposals and added that some teams have been forming already. The industry day attendees included not only representatives of vendors large and small but also brokers who sought to form alliances among vendors, at a price.

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