General Dynamics’(GD) Remote Video Surveillance System (RVSS) upgrade has been given a ‘Full Operating Capability’ (FOC) designation by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which GD said is a “key milestone … achieved after two years of successful deployment and field testing along the southern border and underscores the operational impact this solution provides to Border Patrol.”
The RVSS capability is currently operational in Nogales, Douglas, Naco, Yuma and Ajo, Arizona with relocatable deployments planned in McAllen and Laredo, Texas in 2017.
“The deployment of the Remote Video Surveillance System is important to the safety of our agents and to our mission,” said Ronald D. Vitiello, Chief of Border Patrol. “Successful partnerships like the one we have with the General Dynamics team, are necessary to efficiently and effectively secure the border.”
Located on elevated fixed towers and building structures, RVSS provides a persistent wide-area electro-optic and infrared surveillance capability to enable the detection, tracking, identification and classification of illegal border entries. The system provides CBP agents the necessary situational awareness needed to detect, track, identify and classify illegal incursions between ports of entry.
“Reaching a full operating capability designation is a testament to both the effectiveness of the RVSS solution and our continued partnership with CBP,” said Dan Busby, vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Information Technology’s IT Services and Solutions sector. “The RVSS upgrade will continue to provide CBP and US law enforcement personnel with the advanced technology necessary to secure our nation’s borders and increase agent safety through enhanced situational awareness.”
In July 2013, CBP awarded General Dynamics One Source the contract to upgrade RVSS along the southern border. The contract has a potential value of approximately $103 million over 10 years if all options are exercised. General Dynamics One Source is comprised of General Dynamics Information Technology and General Dynamics Mission Systems.
In October 2015, General Dynamics successfully upgraded surveillance and response capabilities with its initial field deployment and test of the RVSS upgrade for CBP. At that time, General Dynamics had deployed a new command-and-control system and installed upgraded RVSS camera suites on five new and 12 legacy tower sites supporting the Nogales Border Patrol Station. During the test, the system was used to assist field agents in real-world missions.
“This test demonstrated many technical capabilities of the RVSS system and is a key program milestone in its deployment schedule,” General Dynamics said in a statement, noting that, “Border Patrol agents are currently operating the RVSS in Nogales, Arizona, and CBP has also initiated deployments in both Naco and Douglas, Arizona.”
CBP’s January 27, 2017, request for information (RFI) sought to obtain additional information from industry to provide CBP with insight into market conditions, capabilities and/or scientific advances to aid the agency in formation of an expanded and upgraded RVSS acquisition strategy. As of press time, 65 vendors had responded.
In its "Estimated RVSS Tower and C2 Quantities," and "RVSS Operational Requirements" documents, CBP stated they’re for RFI purposes only, but, CBP noted in its RFI, “All existing [border patrol station] Towers are assumed to require upgrade,” and that, “All [fixed or relocatable command and control (C2)] system facilities are assumed to require renovation or modular unit.”
While CBP made clear in the RFI announcement that its “RFI is issued solely for information, planning purposes and market research only,” and “does not constitute a request for proposal or a promise to issue an RFP,” as CBP “is not seeking proposals at this time,” the agency stated in another related document that, “The RVSS Upgrade Program estimates a solicitation release date between October and December 2017,” and is “is not seeking to acquire components,” but rather “… seeking to buy a fully integrated Commercial-off-the-Shelf or Non-developmental Item system.”
The RFIs were due February 8, after which CBP said it “may conduct ‘one-on-one’ discussions with responders with existing, fully-developed and integrated system solutions that meet the operational requirements, as well as, with other responders to gather additional information. CBP may also seek to gather additional information and provide interested vendors an opportunity to learn more about this requirement by hosting an Industry Day.” CBP said it may also “utilize support contractors to review and analyze vendor responses to this RFI.”
The BioBorder Consortium, a group of public and private entities, has proposed using the RVSS system for what it says can be quick and easily deployable commercial “off-the-shelf” technology in a pilot for determining its effectiveness for “sniffing” out chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological materials between ports of entry. In a paper provided to Homeland Security Today, the group said “border policy [especially] requires a comprehensive biosecurity capacity … Congress has identified 4.3 million acres of federal lands in Arizona and New Mexico that border Mexico susceptible to smuggling of nuclear-biological-chemical weapons.”
The coalition emphasized that this sort of data pilot “is critical for overall success and there are many parties that need access to the data for clinical, public health, population health and overall surveillance purposes. The pilot will be the model for collecting data through a certified Electronic Health Records (EHR) [person] and making the data available for other purposes, including access to other detention centers (i.e. surveillance and registries for vaccinations, allergies, med lists and prophylaxis).”
A certified EHR is an EHR that’s demonstrated the technological capability, functionality and security requirements required by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and has received certification by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC).
The coalition’s paper warned that, “Detention centers on the southern border are especially vulnerable given the large immigrant populations, length of stay and the number of children that may be carrying, or exposed to, infectious diseases. Border retention centers are not designed for health delivery – evaluations, vaccinations, testing, care, treatment and isolation. The costs of detainee transport and lack of screening are large and growing. The lack of border medical quarantine and control capacity in the detention locations unnecessarily exposes our border agents, law enforcement, families and surrounding communities.”
“We must add quarantine capacity in our detention centers. Protection from communicable diseases is essential for the health of border agents, surrounding communities, and, ultimately, all residents of and in the United States,” the group stressed.
[Editor’s note: For more on the border "wall" and the RVSS, other border security programs, read the March/April Homeland Security Today cover report, Brick by Brick]