Teams vie for US border security contract

Washington, Aug 30 | Updated: Aug 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
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 departments 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 Swedens 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 Israels Elbit which can spot people at up to 14 kilometers and vehicles at up to 20 kilometers.

Boeings SBInet program director Jerry McElwee stressed the companys low-cost, best-value approach and said the companys integration of other major programs, including the Armys 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 Lockheeds 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 Brazils 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.