Enhancing border security continues to be one of the biggest challenges to our national security efforts. In case you didn't get a chance to read Sam's blog a couple weeks ago discussing a 60 Minutes episode on the ineffectiveness of the technology along the Mexican border, now would be a good time.
The basic theme of the episode (and Sam's blog) is that security professionals (namely Boeing, who many would not consider to be a security company) dropped the ball big time on the installation of technology along the border and basically wasted taxpayer's money. According to the show, $1 billion dollars later and only 28 miles of the border is protected (out of 2,000) and the technology along those 28 miles only "sorta works."
There are many people out there who argue that implementing video-analytic technology along the border just isn't feasible (and there are reports backing them up). So, now that we've wasted this kind of money and effort on a fruitless project, what to do now?
I just read this article in the Dallas News that the governor of Texas (who is currently campaigning for election) is calling for the Department of Defense to bring in more Predator drones to help protect the border. I'll be honest, I had to Wikipedia 'Predator drone.' According to this ever-useful online source, a Predator drone is "an unmanned aerial vehicle which the United States Air Force describes as a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system."
And Gov. Rick Perry wants more of them along the border to provide security as well as real-time data to law enforcement.
According to the Dallas News: Already, there are three Predator B, or unmanned aerial vehicles, in use at the Arizona border for remote-control surveillance of drug and migrant smuggling by U.S. customs and Border Patrol officers.
Perry said this type of technology is critical to the overall security of the border. Law enforcement officers are frequently "outgunned and understaffed and do not have resources" to do their jobs, Perry said. "The federal government has been an abject failure at sealing our international border."
While the federal government certainly has a role in these border security failures, let's at least put some of the blame on the companies who promised to help the federal government do a better job. From Sam's blog:
Boeing promised the government it would have 2,000 miles of surveillance (video-analytic based, radar integrated, outdoor surveillance, no less) installed in three years? No one there has been introduced to the old “under-promise/over-deliver maxim” I’m guessing. Sure, they’re under pressure to get the bid - nobody sneezes at $1 billion in revenue - but, as Borkowski rightly says, “shame on us,” shame on the government administrators, for believing that promise.
But if a huge company like Boeing can't get some cameras to work properly, is it really more feasible (or beneficial or cost effective) to get these unmanned planes out there? I'm skeptical, especially after reading this story that drone planes in North Dakota were just grounded following a major software glitch.
The former Director of the Homeland Security unmanned aerial vehicle program at Grand Forks air force base says a software glitch grounded the two Predator B drones used for northern border patrol.
Mike Corcoran says that during a flight in early November the remotely piloted aircraft did not respond properly after the communication link with the base center was lost.
We don't want these things accidentally dropping bombs everywhere, now do we? That's not exactly helping to secure our borders.