Past Features

October 1, 2017

Integrated Fixed Towers:
A day of reckoning?

Rebecca Gambler, GAO: "CBP could better assess the contribution of border technology to border security efforts." (From subcommittee video)
Glenn Spencer -- October 1, 2017  
Will President Trump knuckle under?
    On July 25, 2017, the House Border and Maritime Subcommittee, Chairwoman Martha McSally, held a hearing to "examine the role that technology plays in enhancing U.S. Customs and Border Protection's ability to secure the southwest border.”
    One of the witnesses was Ms. Rebecca Gambler of the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
    Ms. Gambler submitted a written statement.
    According to Gambler, in 2011 the Government Accountability Office recommended that Customs and Border Protection establish metrics to assess the “contribution of selected approaches” to “detection of border activity.”
    The report specifically mentions the planned Integrated Fixed Tower project: “According to CBP officials, though similar, the IFT systems' equipment will be simpler when compared with the equipment for the tower systems deployed under SBInet.” (Page 7)
    In her On July 25, 2017 testimony before the McSally subcommittee, Gambler observed:
“However, the agency had not developed key attributes for performance metrics for all surveillance technologies to be deployed, as we recommended in November 2011.” (page 10)
    Gambler goes on to report that in 2014 the GAO again recommended that CBP identify performance metrics for the Integrated Fixed Towers, but they stalled, saying the idea was "under review".
    In 2016 CBP told GAO that “additional time would be needed to implement and apply key attributes for metrics.”
    Gambler --- July 25, 2017, Page 11
“To fully implement our recommendation, CBP should complete its efforts to fully develop and apply key attributes for performance metrics for all technologies .... fully assess its progress in implementing planned technologies, and determine when mission benefits have been fully realized."
    Avoiding accountability for six years.
    The record is clear. For six years Customs and Border Protection has worked to avoid the use of metrics to evaluate its Integrated Fixed Towers project.
    Today much of the IFT program is on hold pending testing. There are very powerful forces at work, including billion-dollar corporations, that fear such testing.
    Will the Trump administration insist on the use of metrics that assess the ability of these systems to detect border activity --- or will it knuckle under?