Past Features

October 22, 2017

Call for a report on costly
border technology system

ABP drone 'Hermes" examines Integrated Fixed Tower in the Coronado National Forest and could spot no movement in the cameras. -- See Larger Photo.
Glenn Spencer -- October 22, 2017
President Trump should report on the Integrated Fixed Towers
    If my interview with Sonoran News --- “Glenn's War” --- did nothing else, it got Google to detect the term “Integrated Fixed Towers” --- for the first time in nearly three months.
    The last Google “hit” on IFTs came on July 24: "CBP Selects Elbit Integrated Fixed Tower for Douglas Border”.
    "A Fixed Tower (IFT) border security system from Elbit Systems of America, the ‘ASTORS' 2016 Homeland Security Awards Program Platinum Award Winner for Best Federal Government Security Program, has passed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) systems acceptance testing.
    "This IFT system, located in the Douglas, Arizona, Area of Responsibility (AOR), marks the company's second successful deployment of the system, with the first occurring in the Nogales, Arizona, AOR."

    There are eight IFT systems in the Douglas AOR and it seems clear reference is to A Fixed Tower --- not The Fixed Tower system. I could find no Google hits of any of the other seven Douglas IFTs having passed acceptance testing.
    On November 1, 2016 Google shows: "Local ranchers meet with new BP Chief, Congresswoman McSally”.
 “We are installing new integrated fixed towers in the Douglas station area in order to increase situational awareness along this part of the border. ... These will free up agents to focus more on disrupting the cartel operations and eventually intercepting their activity.”
    Two months after she praised the Douglas IFT video and radar surveillance system, Rep. McSally joined with Sen. John McCain in introducing a bill to reorganize the management of high-tech projects by CBP.
"New technologies such as video and radar surveillance are critical to securing our borders, However, widespread mismanagement and a lack of accountability within our federal bureaucracy have prevented us from using these technologies to stop illegal immigration, put an end to human trafficking, and reduce crime in communities in Arizona and across the Southwest.”
    The McCain bill passed a Senate committee on October 4, 2017, at which time I expressed the belief that McCain and McSally had the Integrated Fixed Towers in mind.
    I later learned that McSally's version of this bill had passed the House on January 31, 2017.
    Arguing for the bill, Rep. McSally made special reference to problems with managing border technology projects --- but only ten-year-old problems with the Secure Border Initiative.
    It seems we are to believe that McCain and McSally were suddenly concerned with a ten-year-old problem, while ignoring problems ABP had reported with Integrated Fixed Towers installed at Nogales --- two years ago.
    In written testimony before a July 25, 2017 hearing of Chairwoman McSally's border subcommittee, CBP officials said:
 "The first IFT system became operational in the Nogales Area of Responsibility in August 2015. The second IFT system became operational in May in the Douglas Area of Responsibility. The third system has been installed and will undergo system acceptance testing this September in the Sonoita Area of Responsibility."
    So, one day after a July 24 press report that "A Fixed Tower (IFT) border security system” had passed operational tests, Chairwoman McSally was told the Douglas IFT system became operational in May of 2017. There is a difference between saying a single system passed and an entire system became operational.
    A September 29, 2017, survey of the Douglas IFTs by American Border Patrol found strong evidence that most, if not all, are not being used.
    As shown in the report, one IFT tower has apparently needed a mobile radar camera system for protection for nearly one year. Plenty of time for testing.
    The Trump administration must know by now the true capabilities of these Integrated Fixed Towers, costing $500 million so far.
    It is time they gave the public a report of their findings.