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Sun, Sep 24, 2006

Should Boeing Build A Fence?

America's Premier Aircraft Builder Goes To Ground

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awarded an industry team led by Boeing the contract to provide border security under the technology component of the department's Secure Border Initiative (SBI), SBInet.

In a release, Boeing says its team was selected over a field of major domestic and international teams in a competition that began earlier this year. They say their solution is based on proven, low risk, off-the-shelf technology and that it will significantly improve the availability of information and tools to Border Patrol agents.

President of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems George Muellner said, "Being selected to support Customs and Border Protection as they secure our nation's borders is a testament to the strength of our team and the expertise, talent and focus that we bring to this task. Our team is absolutely committed to making SBInet a success, and we are ready to respond immediately to our customer in the detailed design and deployment of this critical solution to enhance our nation's border security system."

The contract, worth an estimated $80 million, marks the start of an initiative aimed at securing the US borders with Mexico and Canada.

Boeing is to focus on a "high-traffic," 28-mile stretch of border south of Tucson, AZ.

Despite its reputation as an aviation company, Boeing's primary focus for this job is ground-based equipment -- fencing, unmanned towers, communications and sensor equipment -- all integrated to provide agents with real-time data on border activity.

According to Defensetech.org, there are plans to employ a few UAVs, but these will be small, automobile launched craft with limited range.

Boeing's plan is not without its critics.

T. J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council representing 11,000 agents told the Washington Post that giving agents a better sense of who is crossing the border and where wouldn't do much good on its own.

Bonner says, "Surveillance technology can be useful if you have enough people on the ground to respond to it. But if you don't, you just have to file it away because you're too busy with the first 50 people that the cameras caught. It's not the solution to the illegal immigration problem. The solution is denying access to jobs so people don't come across in the first place."

A successful effort by Boeing on its initial effort south of Tucson could prove quite lucrative for the aerospace giant. $80 million for 28 miles of border could translate to $2.5 billion for the entire 6000 miles of border DHS wants to protect.

It's not surprising Boeing is willing to give up some of it flying toys for a piece of that pie!

FMI: www.boeing.com, www.dhs.gov

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