DHS, Congress offer border security plans

As the Bush administration introduces new steps to control border security, a leading Republican congressman is promoting a plan to build a multibillion-dollar fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff announced the comprehensive, new Secure Border Initiative Nov. 2, calling for deployment of integrated surveillance technologies including unmanned aerial vehicles, remote video cameras and next-generation sensors.

Contract awards for the integrated border security system will begin in fiscal 2006, and deployment will occur in fiscal 2007, Chertoff said.

The border initiative also includes an additional 1,000 border agents, greater detention capacity, expedited removal of illegal aliens, increased use of fencing and lighting, and other measures.

Chertoff's new program appears to encompass the $2.5 billion America's Shield Initiative, a proposed system of thousands of video surveillance cameras and detection devices at the Mexico and Canada borders that had been announced to contractors in 2004. While Chertoff did not mention America's Shield by name, industry sources expect that America's Shield is being folded into the broader program.

'DHS will field the most effective mix of current and next-generation technology with trained personnel,' Chertoff said. 'Our goal is to ultimately have the capacity to integrate multiple state-of-the-art cameras and sensors into a single comprehensive detection system and expand infrastructure systems throughout the border where appropriate to strengthen our efforts to reduce illegal entry.'

In related news, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.), said today they would introduce a bill to build a reinforced fence with lighting and sensors along the 2,000-mile border, said Linwood Duncan, a spokesman for Goode. Cost estimates range up to $8 billion.

Only 14 miles of the westernmost section of the border are currently fenced.

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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