border security

Up and Running

True border security means minimum equipment downtime

Hundreds of different types of systems are available and deployed for virtually every aspect of border security, from surveillance to identification and, ultimately, interdiction.

Innovative ideas translated into products and services offer a wide array of choices that make determining and deploying the exact equipment for a specific border security application more a matter of research than inventiveness.

However, regardless of how physically rugged, impervious to climatic extremes and capable of autonomous long-term operation equipment might be, virtually every piece eventually needs technical support and maintenance.

Challenges and Opportunities

Both the Department of Homeland Security and Defense Department are critically concerned with border security. DHS, of course, is highly focused on the nation's southwest to southeast borders. DOD, meanwhile, faced with renewed emphasis in Afghanistan and increasing tensions in Iraq, must deal with security threats directly designed to kill American service members and civilians.

Increased emphasis on border security creates new opportunities for small to mid-sized original equipment manufacturers to deploy new technology both here and outside the United States. As these companies' technology is successfully integrated into border security applications, they should be actively organizing resources for fielding and technical sustainment of their equipment.

This is especially important in military applications because, quite simply, there are no second chances in protecting troops abroad and citizens at home.

Key trends are driving the protection and security technologies, increasing the demands for rapid response and impeccable support. The ultimate goal is to ensure a high state of operational readiness, resulting in adapting and keeping systems successfully deployed, generating new orders from the end users, and saving military and civilian lives.

Terrorists and insurgents are not just in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense operations occur in many areas, including Pakistan, Kuwait, Djibouti, Peru, Colombia, Thailand and Somalia—to name a few.

The military uses a great deal of technology to offset the disadvantages regarding the environment and the enemy's unconventional tactics, especially with detecting improvised explosive devices. In fact, counter IED systems in Iraq have successfully reduced casualties. But the threat and the results are as devastating as ever.

Weapon of Choice

While U.S. border security centers on illegal immigration and drug interdiction, outside the United States it is a much deadlier game. The weapon of choice by insurgents and terrorists today is the handmade element of surprise—an IED.

IEDs are cheap to manufacture, easy to make and difficult to detect and counter. In addition to explosives that kill or maim, IEDs can be built using chemicals, dangerous biological pathogens such as anthrax, ricin and smallpox, or even radioactive materials—so-called dirty bombs. Beyond the obvious benefits of neutralizing these weapons is the psychological boost for countering them.

High rates of operational readiness for every piece of border security equipment require positive management control of the maintenance programs and appropriate technical expertise.

The best results for offshore technical support programs come from a three-pronged approach to an implementation and maintenance infrastructure: personnel, systems and spare parts, and security and life support.

Successful implementation requires that OEMs provide flawless repair times in challenging environments, maintaining systems on demand with rapid response, resulting in minimal down time.

A plan for backup parts in multiple locations throughout border security operations must be implemented and managed. Critical repair parts should arrive in a timely manner. Field service staff must be resourceful if parts are delayed, especially in remote areas. In the event of a component failure, the entire system's uptime should not be compromised.

Providing a management staff, on the ground, to control a field sustainment program is necessary to optimize communications with the DOD end user. Without it, the whole program could fall flat.

Obstacles to Consider

Small to mid-sized OEMs face four major challenges to support their products and systems in severe border environments, especially outside the United States.

Lack of military experience. Most field service representatives are civilian contractors with no military background or tactical experience, especially in dynamic operations in hostile and hard-to-support areas.

Challenges include physical and mental training to deal with the possibility of high stress during ongoing insurgent action with rapid response under fire; being on call 24/7 to sustain systems' operational readiness; extreme heat, dust and sand conditions for potentially prolonged periods of time, possibly without shelter; understanding the urgency of rapid response; and ability to be self sufficient while adapting and integrating seamlessly into the military units they are supporting.

High liability. OEMs face the consequences of high liability for their service representatives in the field—they have to be ready for the worst, such as lack of secure transportation in remote areas. OEM personnel face the same dangers as the military during transports, risking severe injury to their employees, as well as death. It is crucial to maintain ongoing safety and contingency planning to keep their staff safe so they can keep the troops safe.

Insufficient manpower. OEMs must be able to provide enough experienced technicians to conduct training, support and maintenance 24/7 on demand; be able to quickly assemble a full-service support team for rapid large-scale deployments of equipment; supply technicians who come from a variety of disciplines; provide Defense Security Service Facility Clearance to support classified programs or technologies; and develop a logistics trail seamlessly integrating into the Theatre Logistic Support system to ensure a sufficient amount of spare parts and delivery.

Low operational readiness rates. This may lead to decreased numbers of systems purchased and deployed.

Positive control of ground technical support activities and management of the DOD end user leads to an increased utilization and additional acquisition of systems. OEMs must provide flawless repair times in hostile environments, maintaining systems on demand with rapid response.

Experienced teams that quickly establish infrastructures are key to success. These teams support the implementation and maintenance of systems, staff and spare parts. All of these controls—along with rapid response— are vital to achieving high operational readiness rates and successful system deployment.

The Question of Outsourcing

Due to the extreme life and death nature, austere environments and proven experience for the jobs that must be done properly, outsourcing is obviously the best way to implement an ongoing strategy for service and support.

Here are six areas of support that will help in selecting the correct strategic outsourcing partner:

  • Site survey and vulnerability assessments prior to system deployment should include key sustainment and performance factors.
  • Field service personnel must have U.S. military background and experience abroad to ensure a rapid response, minimal down time and maximum equipment usage.
  • Concept of operations development and new equipment training must be integrated for maximum performance.
  • Field logistical support and infrastructure development must be based on the needs of the user.
  • Program management must be in place on the ground to achieve success.
  • The partner must boast a proven track record with operational rates of 90 percent or higher.

One of the strongest voices for appropriate development of products and management of systems in the war on terrorism is Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R-Ind.). A senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Souder is the lead Republican on the subcommittee on border, maritime and global counterterrorism.

Souder has jurisdiction over border security, port security, Coast Guard and maritime security, global counterterrorism efforts, international aspects of homeland security, counter-narcotics, trafficking and smuggling, terrorist travel and financing, and homeland defense.

"I am acutely aware of the harm that could be brought against us by those with evil intentions," Souder said. "In the war zones, protection of our military and civilian contractor personnel is paramount. "The constant stream of new, technology- based products and systems is very impressive. Keeping this equipment running 24/7 also is critical. Product designers, manufacturers and maintenance professionals have the full support of the homeland security committee."

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