Last August 27, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) re-awarded the $145 million Southwest border Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) contract it originally awarded to Israeli-based Elbit Systems’ US subsidiary, Fort Worth, Texas-based EFW, Inc., following a careful review of the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) decision to uphold Raytheon’s protest of CBP’s contract to Elbit.
Since the re-award of the IFT contract to EFW, the company has completed construction of the first Southwest border Border Patrol Stations/Areas of Reponsibilities (AoRs) IFT at Nogales, Arizona, CBP told Homeland Security Today, adding, “we are in the process of conducting testing. The contract contains options which can be exercised by the government for additional deployments.”
A CBP spokesperson told Homeland Security Today that the “corrective actions we took regarding the contract … and concurred with by the GAO, was to re-evaluate specific portions of the Technical and Past Performance Factors” component of Raytheon’s contesting of the award. “Those re-evaluations were then considered for the impact to the overall evaluation and a new award decision was made.”
The IFT sensor program is designed to monitor Border Patrol’s gaps in remote areas along the Southwestern border by "provid[ing] automated, persistent wide areasurveillance for the detection, tracking, identification and classification of illegal border incursions between ports of entry,” according to CBP.
The IFT systems will consist of surveillance equipment (e.g., ground surveillance radars and surveillance cameras) mounted on fixed (i.e., stationary) tower(s); all necessary power generation and communications equipment to support these tower sites; and command and control (C2) center equipment (including one or more operator workstations) that are capable of displaying information received from surveillance towers on a common operating picture (COP), based on current BP AoRs.
The IFT program incorporates valuable lessons learned from the ill-fated SBInet effort, CBP has said, including abandonment of developing a “one size fits all” solution in favor of procuring commercially available technologies for a firm fixed-price. The agency took the added step of specifying that respondents to the original RFP demonstrate the performance of their proposed system during the source selection process, and be proactive in finalizing the sensor site locations and ensuring that the required environmental reviews and approvals are completed prior to contract award.
This initial phase, which covers a portion of the total IFT contract amount, deploys Elbit’s Peregrine surveillance system.
By awarding the IFT project to Elbit, the Department of Homeland Security bypassed some of its biggest American contractors to employ an Israeli company to help secure US borders.
“It is odd to go offshore for this work, but in extraordinary circumstances, one really wants to employ the best,” Bloomberg quoted Mark Amtower, a partner at Amtower & Co., a government contracting consulting firm in Clarksville, Maryland. “A company with a track record of doing this work in Israel is likely to be much further advanced in this particular arena,” Amtower said.
But Elbit Systems has deployed several border protection systems, including hundreds of kilometers of the border fence between Israel and Arab occupied lands. Since the establishment of that barrier, the number of terrorist acts against Israel has dropped dramatically. Elbit Systems has also provided key border security assets to the Israeli border with Gaza and Egypt, through the use of multi-sensor surveillance systems.