Up and Running
True border security means minimum equipment downtime
- By Michael Thompson
- Mar 04, 2010
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- Site survey and vulnerability assessments
prior to system deployment
should include key sustainment and
- 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
- 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
- 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
"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."