Past Features

July 9, 2017

Integrated Fixed Towers
A Troubling History

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Glenn Spencer -- July 9, 2017
Was the "fix in" for the Integrated Fixed Towers?
    Last November 6, two days before the presidential election, the Sierra Vista Herald reported that a National Park Service Superintendent said that a new US Border Patrol camera tower planned for the Montezuma Pass would be completed by April of this year.
    The Park Service Superintendent failed to tell the reporter that eight such towers were planned.
    On December 1, 2016, less than one month after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, the Park Service issued a Special Use Permit to build those towers.
    American Border Patrol has expressed concern over the placement of Integrated Fixed Towers near Nogales and the Coronado National Forest.
    The Department of Homeland Security recently released a special report that included a GAO finding in March of 2014 that the Integrated Fixed Tower system was never tested for “operational effectiveness” “in its "intended environment”.
    That 2014 GAO finding missed the attention of GAO's Rebecca Gambler when she reported on the status of the IFT systems to a House Subcommittee on May 24, 2016.
    Ms. Gambler reported: "Further, CBP reported it had initiated deployment of the IFT systems and as of May 2016 has deployed 7 out of 53 IFTs in one area of responsibility."
    Each Integrated Fixed Tower costs about $19 million, for a total of $980 million for all 52 --- yet Ms. Gambler failed to inform the House of Representatives that her office knew there was no plan to test to see if that $1 billion was a sound investment for U.S. taxpayers.
    The National Park Service rushed to approve a special use permit for Integrated Fixed Towers for border security less than one month after Donald Trump was elected president on the promise that he would build a wall on the border. He later said it would be "impassible."
    The Director of Homeland Security and Justice of the Government Accountability Office, Rebecca Gambler, failed to report that these towers might not do the job at all.
    Today, that Montezuma Pass tower sits idle, as do the other seven Integrated Fixed Towers - and the mobile radar units it was designed to replace are still in operation.
    Could it be that DHS is finally testing the Integrated Fixed Towers to see if they can spot anyone who is able to get past President Trump's “impassible barrier”?
    These and other questions hang over the Integrated Fixed Towers program making it appear that the “fix was in” to get them funded regardless of their performance or utility.