Past Features

July 10, 2017

Integrated Fixed Towers
A Troubling History

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Glenn Spencer -- July 10, 2017 (July 9 version re-edited)
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, replacing two mobile radar units stationed at the pass.
Apparently, the Superintendent failed to tell the reporter that a total of eight such towers were planned for the immediate area.
    Donald Trump ran on the promise that he would build a wall on the border. On December 1, 2016, less than one month after Donald Trump was elected President, the Park Service issued a Special Use Permit to build those security towers just north of the border where such a wall was planned.
    American Border Patrol has expressed concern over the placement of Integrated Fixed Towers near Nogales and the Coronado National Forest.
    On June 17, less than one month ago, The Department of Homeland Security OIG released a special report that included a GAO finding that the Integrated Fixed Towers were never tested for “operational effectiveness” “in its "intended environment”.
    Rebecca Gambler is the Director of Homeland Security for the GAO. On May 24, 2016, she testified before a House subcommittee that was looking into the effectiveness of border technology. Given the opportunity to report that her office had found in 2014 that the IFT systems were never tested for operational effectiveness in their intended environment, she remained silent.
    As Ms. Gambler reported to the subcommittee: "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 was aware that there was no plan to test to see if that $1 billion was a sound investment for U.S. taxpayers. Since her testimony, DHS/CBP bought the eight towers for the Coronado Forest area at a cost of $148 million.
    The National Park Service had 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 build a wall on the border. He later said it would be “impassible."
    Today, that Montezuma Pass tower sits idle, as do the seven other Integrated Fixed Towers planned for the area --- and the mobile radar units the Park Service said 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