Drones, Blimps Lose Out in Border War

For those of you hoping for hordes of drones and blimps to start patrolling the Mexican and Canadian borders, there's bad news this morning. "After a face-off among large military contractors, the Boeing Company was picked by the Homeland Security Department to lead a high-tech effort to secure borders," the Times reports. And unlike proposals from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and others, Boeing's plan for the Secure Border Initiative, or SBInet, doesn't rely that much on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or airships.aerostat_tcom.jpg"Boeing's proposal relied heavily on a network of 1,800 towers, most of which would need to be erected along the borders with Mexico and Canada. Each tower would be equipped with a variety of sensors, including cameras and heat and motion detectors," the Washington Post notes. Boeing teamed up for the project with an Israeli company that built a bunch of the imaging equipment used in Israel's controversial fence along the West Bank. That gear, Boeing said, would be less risky and expensive than UAVs or airships -- even though both have been used to watch over southern Arizona for illegals.But, not to worry: the Times says that there are still a few drones in the Boeing plan -- "small, relatively inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles that can be launched from a pickup truck by an agent in the field and then fly for, perhaps, 90 minutes." I'm guessing the paper means these drones here."Homeland Security has been criticized harshly in recent years for initiatives that have either failed or far exceeded their budgets. In one case, cameras that the department installed on the borders broke down in bad weather," the Post observes.

"The administration has spent $429 million of the taxpayer's money to try and secure our borders with two already-abandoned border security programs," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss). He expressed concern that the same thing will happen to SBInet.Mindful of that record, Boeing emphasized that all its technology has been proven to work. "The low-risk approach is probably going to carry weight here."
"The contract will at least initially be much more limited than some industry officials had expected, valued at $80 million instead of the $2 billion estimate given for the six-year deal," the Times writes.
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