Teams vie for U.S. border security contract
By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Five industry teams are competing
for a $2.1 billion contract to be awarded next month to help
the U.S. Department of Homeland Security beef up security along
over 7,500 miles of U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada.
The winning bidder will help unify existing technologies
and install new tracking sensors and communications equipment
so border agents can better monitor regions that range from
urban centers to desert, to huge lakes and forested mountains.
“There are many different elements of border security
already in place, but there is a need for an integrated
approach to securing the borders,” said Kia Evans, spokeswoman
for the Secure Border Initiative (SBI) that was unveiled by
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last November.
Evans said the department’s Customs and Border Protection
Agency would award the “SBInet” contract by September 30 and it
would run for three to five years.
Bidding to tie all the pieces together are U.S. defense
contractors, Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co., Northrop
Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Co., as well as Sweden’s Ericsson.
Each has put together a team of U.S. and foreign companies
specializing in everything from sensors to visual recognition
technology to long-range cameras.
Boeing, teamed with L-3 Communications Holdings Inc.,
Unisys Corp. and others, on Tuesday explained its bid, which
relies on over 300 radar towers along the borders, some
supplemented by cameras developed by Israel’s Elbit which can
spot people at up to 14 kilometers and vehicles at up to 20
Boeing’s SBInet program director Jerry McElwee stressed the
company’s low-cost, best-value approach and said the company’s
integration of other major programs, including the Army’s
Future Combat Systems, gave it the needed experience.
Lockheed Martin plans to announce its partners next week,
said Jane Rudolph, vice president of business development for
Lockheed’s transportation and security division.
She said Lockheed was already involved in homeland security
through its joint venture with Northrop to modernize the Coast
Guard, and a customs modernization program begun before the
September 11, 2001, hijacking attacks. Shortly afterward, she
said Lockheed also mobilized 1,000 employees to revamp
passenger checkpoints at 429 U.S. airports in about six months.
Raytheon says its experience on a $1.4 billion project to
secure Brazil’s Amazon region — an area that would cover
two-thirds of the continental United States — makes it an
ideal candidate for SBInet. Its teammates include IBM, BAE
Systems and privately owned Bechtel.
Northrop, which won a smaller DHS contract for surveillance
at land ports along the southwest border on Monday, has been
providing information technology support for Immigration and
Customs Enforcement since 2002.
Northrop spokesman Randy Belote said information
technologies represented the largest source of revenue for the
company, accounting for about 32 percent of total revenues, or
$10 billion, in 2005.
Northrop’s partners include General Dynamics Corp., L-3,
and Anteon Corp. which is being taken over by General Dynamics.