Past Features

October 23, 2017

Mr. President: Does this
border technology work?

ABP drone 'Hermes" examines Integrated Fixed Tower located in the U.S. Border Patrol Douglas Area of Responsibility
Glenn Spencer -- October 23, 2017
President Trump should report on the Integrated Fixed Towers -- updated report  
     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, 2017: "CBP Selects Elbit Integrated Fixed Tower for Douglas Border” .
    "A Fixed Tower (IFT) border security system from Elbit Systems of America, ... 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. It is not clear if this report includes all eight, or just one.
    In written testimony before a July 25, 2017 The Border and Maritime Security 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 press reports 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.
    During the same hearing the following exchange occurred:
    Chairwoman McSally:
   
 "DO YOU HAVE ANY SORT OF FEEDBACK HOW THE IFTS AND OTHER TECHNOLOGIES ARE WORKING IN ARIZONA?"
    Mr. Scott A. Luck, Acting Deputy Chief, U.S. Border Patrol:
   
 "SO, THE REPORTS THAT I'M GETTING FOR THE SHORT TIME THAT THEY'VE BEEN ONLINE WITH THE LAST TOWERS IFTS IN DOUGLAS, THE VIEWSHEDS AND THE AREA THAT THEY CAN COVER, AND THE WORKABILITY OF THOSE SYSTEMS ARE FUNCTIONING PROPERLY AND IT'S A GREAT ASSET IN THOSE ENVIRONMENTS."
    One day after Elbit Systems of America announced that "A Fixed Tower border security system" had passed CBP acceptance testing, when asked by Chairwoman McSally how IFTs are working, Chief Luck made no mention of acceptance testing of the IFTs, only that “the workability of those systems are functioning properly."
    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.
    On August 14, and September 29, American Border Patrol looked at each of the eight IFTs in the Douglas AOR. We drove our Hummer H2 as close as we could to each tower and launched a drone to take a closer look. We flew up to each tower and circled it. The video clearly shows no movement of the cameras on either day. Still photos taken from the ground support this.
    One of the towers, TCA DGL 0364, was co-located with a mobile radar camera system and associated US Border Patrol security. A comparison of a September 29 image of DGL 0364 with a Google Earth image found the same configuration existed on December 10, 2016.
    In written testimony, CBP officials told a House panel that "the Douglas IFT system became operational in May of 2017” in July of 2017, Elbit Systems of America report that its systems had passed CBP acceptance testing, yet physical inspections by American Border Patrol on two occasions - August 14 and September 29 -found that the Douglas IFT towers were not in operational use.
    CBP has had nearly a year to test the Douglas Integrated Fixed Towers, and they must know if these systems can do the job --- or not.
    There are serious questions about these Integrated Fixed Towers and the American people deserve answers before we spend another dime on border security systems.
    It is time President Trump told the American people the truth about this border technology that has cost them at least $500 million --- so far.

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