Beefing Up Border Security

Beefing Up Border Security

Tips on selling advanced surveillance solutions to protect U.S. frontiers

Beefing up Border SecurityHere’s an interesting geography factoid: more than 7,000 miles of U.S. land share borders with our Canadian and Mexican neighbors. It takes hundreds of local, state and federal agencies, tribal partners and neighboring governments, and thousands of border patrol officers working in concert on a daily basis to effectively protect this vast territory from traffickers of illegal weapons, drugs, money and people. Legislation is now pending in Washington that ties immigration reform to increasing border security measures in ways that achieve quantifiable results.

This opens a sizable opportunity for technology vendors and systems integrators to propose advanced surveillance solutions that can become force-multipliers to augment various border personnel.

To build a persuasive case for contemporary technology, however, you first need to understand the current state of border protection in the United States and the government’s roadmap to the future. A good source for that information can be found in the written testimony of Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office for a House Committee hearing on Homeland Security. The document is titled “Measuring Border Security: U.S. Border Patrol’s New Strategic Plan and the Path Forward.” (http://www.dhs.gov/ news/2012/05/08/written-testimony-us-customs-and-border-protection-house-homeland- security)

It’s apparent from this testimony that government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are becoming increasingly more reliant on private industry to recommend and implement effective solutions. Once you understand the framework of their requirements, you’ll be able to provide integrated systems to meet their specialized needs.

Key Objectives for Border Security Strategies

The principal theme of the 2012 Strategic Plan is to use information, integration and rapid response to meet threats. The plan references three key objectives concerning border security today:

  • Information gathered from reconnaissance, community engagement and technology together provide situational awareness and intelligence to help under stand and assess the threats we face along our borders. Integrating this intelligence will empower Border Patrol leadership and front line agents to get ahead of the threat, be predictive and proactive.
  • Leveraging partnerships with multiple government organizations is essential to the execution of border security operations. Coordinated and cooperative effort between agencies will ensure that we bring all available capabilities and tools to bear in addressing threats.
  • Through rapid response, capabilities are deployed efficiently and effectively to assess and mitigate the risks confronted.

In light of those objectives and strategies, there two commonly recognized border security environments:

  1. Land Points of Entry (LPOE) and Checkpoints, and 2. Remote/Unmanned Borders.

Land Points of Entry and Checkpoints

Legitimate international commerce and travel flow into the United States via 329 official LPOEs. For instance, on the northern border, the Peace Bridge entry point in Buffalo, NY, handles nearly 2.8 million border crosses by auto/truck annually. At the newly renovated southern border crossing at San Isidro near San Diego, CA, more than 12 million vehicles and 8 million people crossed into the United States in 2011 alone.

Many different federal, state and local law enforcement agencies typically share jurisdiction and operation of these busy, permanent inspection sites. Over time, it has become increasingly apparent that only through coordinated, joint efforts and sharing of data and systems can these agencies gain the necessary real-time situational awareness needed to safeguard the country’s points of entry without negatively impacting trade and tourism.

Serving both as a checkpoint and operations center, LPOEs rely on a variety of systems and sensors to provide critical information, such as radar, sonar, communications and airborne and fixed video. When properly integrated, these systems afford commanders a complete overview of checkpoint activity, as well as their relevant area of responsibility. In tactical parlance this is referred to as C4ISR: Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.

Legacy LPOE Systems versus Today’s Reality

In the past, many of these systems displayed their data independently and in a format that couldn’t be shared with other applications. Today, the government is requiring that these systems move to open standards to ensure interoperability.

What does this shift in standards mean to you?

  • Any solution you propose must have the ability to be displayed on a common operating platform (COP).
  • Multiple inputs and sensors must communicate with multiple, non-proprietary applications with shared databases.
  • Your solution must reside on the local network. The government is mandating that all system data be moved to the cloud or hosted remotely.
  • Information assurance has become a central concern as new threats and vulnerabilities emerge daily, so proposed systems must meet a moving array of government-imposed certifications.
  • Many government agencies publish their own approved products lists that meet their stringent information assurance requirements, so vendor components must meet each agency’s criteria.

Remote/Unmanned Northern and Southern Borders

Large expanses of land and water add another complexity to border security. In the past, government agencies have deployed physical barriers, such as a fencing and surveillance technologies, such as long-range thermal detection devices.

While these measures have been effective to some extent, the sheer expanses have prevented them from providing the relevant situational awareness that border protection staff need for actionable use and intelligence gathering.

In 2006, the government initiated a program called SBInet to secure U.S. borders and augment rapid response by integrating interagency personnel, infrastructure and technology. Though a laudable goal, the project never truly coalesced primarily because its one-size-fits-all approach using integrated fixed tower-base systems wasn’t applicable across all border environments. In 2011, DHS formally cancelled the program.

Subsequently the government’s strategy changed from “developmental systems” to “deployed and production-ready systems” on a sector by sector basis. The goal now appears to focus on creating frontier force multipliers by strategically deploying infrastructure along remote borders to house technical equipment and staff and aggregate intelligence from multiple systems.

Legacy Remote Border Systems vs Today’s Reality

Previous solutions deployed in these remote environments were based on proprietary equipment that was often hard to service and sustain. Like LPOEs, vast expanses of unmanned borders are best served by a multi-sensor, open systems approach.

So how does that impact the types of solutions and components you might propose to deploy?

  • Government agencies are driving requirements to furnish more commercial off-the-shelf (COTs) products, requiring vendors to use a deployment-ready approach to development.
  • Data must be packaged and compressed in order to move it to other locations.
  • Software applications and storage systems should be able to manage metadata and share information across a broad spectrum of agencies.
  • Your solution will need a mechanism for streaming data to the cloud or an off-site hosting facility.
  • Cyber threats and information assurance requirements will continue to drive the need for more robust and secure hardware and software.
  • The government values return on investment, so you will need to illustrate the benefits of your solution in reducing manpower and streamlining operations.

Building a Roadmap for Success

As a security integrator or technology provider, the apparent complexity of a border security project or program can be intimidating. After all, if Boeing with all its immense resources failed to bring SBInet to fruition, how can smaller companies hope to succeed?

Many would argue that the failure of SBInet was ultimately due to insufficient procurement oversight. Rather than walking away from this opportunity, the key is to establish common criteria with measurable performance metrics, clearly defined goals and fixed milestones.

Success in this demanding space is based on a strategic approach and solid planning. Below are a number of important steps to consider when participating in a border security initiative—whatever your role.

Partnerships. The complexity of these solutions demands strategic partnerships and cooperative development, so look for firms with robust partner programs and standards-based development philosophies.

Cloud or hosted video solutions. The burden of maintenance and rising energy costs are driving government customers to consolidate data centers and reduce their overall IT footprint. In border deployments, a proposal may need to include a cloud or hosted environment alternative and/or a migration path.

Open platform standards. For interagency operability, you need to deliver truly open software and hardware such as open APIs, SDKs and COTs components and applications.

Edge-based hardware solutions. The ability to provide data or metadata, storage and analytics at the edge reduces server/processor cost and increases performance and capabilities. Expanded FLASH technology and other edge storage capabilities provide redundancy for shared data.

Cyber focus. Integrators and technology providers must keep current on government information assurance requirements, certifications, and be listed on government agencies’ approved products lists.

A Compelling Proposal for Specific Video Surveillance Technology

The very nature of border environments makes them ideal candidates for more advanced network-based video surveillance technology. Here are some innovative IP camera technologies you might consider including in your proposal:

  • Wide dynamic range, enhanced lowlight color technologies and advanced H.264 compression provide significantly better video quality and reduce muchneeded bandwidth.
  • New HDTV-quality network cameras tactically deployed in tandem with thermal technology are capable of detection and identification at a substantially lower cost than their predecessors.
  • Digital encoders provide a migration path from analog to IP. They can extend the useful life of legacy cameras and increase their functionality by streaming video data on the network.

Securing a Border Protection Contract

Succeeding in this dynamic and politically-charged space requires due diligence. You and your partners need to be able to identify and target multiple governmental agencies and understand their security challenges, certification processes and procurement requirements. Propose solutions that align with their mission and incorporate systems that not only provide critical situational awareness, but also facilitate interagency sharing of critical security intelligence.

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Security Today.

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