Border Tech Upgrade?


When I drove into Ft. Huachuca, Arizona last year, one of the first things I noticed was the aerostat lingering above the horizon, keeping track of the Mexican border, just a few miles away. A couple of days later, I visited with a pair of Border Patrol agents, who showed me how their new flying drone had helped them catch illegals crossing into the country. They couldn't wait to get another.drones_wired.jpgNow, the Times tells us, the Bush administration wants to expand the use of techno-goodies like these along the border -- at a cost of $2 billion.Lawmakers are skeptical. "We've been presented with expensive proposals for elaborate border technology that eventually have proven to be ineffective and wasteful," Representative Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky, said. So are some of my favorite homeland security analysts, like Christian Beckner. He notes that the Border Patrol's Predator B robotic spy plane, which crashed last month, sucked up about $7,808 per apprehension -- compared to a $1,166 per-catch average cost for the rest of the Patrol's budget.So, clearly, there needs to be big-time oversight of this "Secure Border Initiative" -- especially if companies like Northrop are going to come up with hare-brained schemes like watching for coyotes from 65,000 feet. And, obviously, no technology is going to beat boots on the ground -- trained boots, that is.But still, I'm inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt here. The Border Patrol -- especially in the Tuscon sector, around Ft. Huachuca -- has a nearly impossible job, trying to catch millions of illegals with just a few thousand agents. The least we can do is equip 'em right.

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