Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in a Senate Homeland
Security Committee hearing entitled, Fencing Along the Southwest
Border. The purpose of the hearing was to examine security
along the US southwest border, what has been done to secure the
border, and what can be done to improve current security measures.
Lankford specifically focused on the delays and technology barriers
the US Customs and Border Protection face to successfully patrol
the southern border in Arizona and Texas. This is day one of a
Hearing witnesses included:
David Aguilar, former acting Commissioner of US Customs and Border
Protection; Ronald Colburn, former Deputy Chief of the US Border
Patrol at US Customs and Border Protection; and Terence M. Garrett,
Ph.D., professor and chair, Public Affairs and Security Studies
Department at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Excerpts from Question
Senator Lankford: Mr.
Colburn, youve had unique experience that you were at a
location in Uma, saw the high crime rate, saw the large number
of people crossing illegally, saw the vehicular trafficcouldnt
do anything about it. Wall goes up, then saw a very significant
drop in illegal crossings at that spot as well as vehicles and
people. Let me get some specific questions
What did you
see as far as delays? Theres been a lot of conversation
about land acquisition, delays in construction, permitting, and
road access and such. What did you see in delays? What is the
causes of those delays? And, did construction move in other areas
while they were working out the delays in other spots?
Mr. Colburn: The delays
in Uma were not as significant to compare them to, say, south
Texas. Significantly, a lot of that has to do with the fact that
along that 125-mile stretch of the border, 96 percent of the land
adjoining Mexico on the US side is federally, publically stewarded
it was the Bureau of Reclamations within the Department
of Interior, it was National Park Service, it was Bureau of Land
Management, it was the Department of Defense
so it was a
variety of federal and publically stewarded that does bring in
environmental considerations, but when I mentioned earlier about
rapidly layering on manpower, technology, and
thats what made Uma that case in point
that we were
able to get that together quickly. There are places where, because
of private ownership that weve been discussing, they are
more challenging. As well as, there are places where the terrain,
geographic climate will be more costly. Levees will cost more
than some of the barriers we were putting in Uma at the tune of
1-1.1 million a mile. So, compared to the five million per mile
in south Texas, it was rather efficient in the dessert areas of
Not everywhere though, we do have a roughly 20 miles
of river boundary, people forget.
As both the Chief and
I have mentioned, its not a cookie cutter solution anywhere
along the border. Each sector, even within each sector, we find
different combinations of resources that solve that problem. But
certainly, in Uma we had it easier because of the publically stewarded
Senator Lankford: Mr.
Aguilar, talk to me about the technology. Thats one of the
prime areas to be able to innovate on first. What technology is
needed? And, what do we have that we need more of, or what do
we not have that we need to put in place?
Mr. Aguilar: The technology
is absolutely critical part of that you do anywhere along the
border. The type of technology were talking about is the
technology that will give you situational awareness of anywhere
that agents are going to be interested as to whats happening
along the border. Today we have IFTs, integrated fixed towers,
which started way back when Chief Colburn and I were in the field.
We have remote video surveillance. We have mobile surveillance
Lets get more specific as were talking through this.
When you talk about towers, how frequently do you need those?
Youve got a 2,000-mile border, is that every two miles?
Is that every five-hundred feet?
Mr. Aguilar: Let me
step back. Not the towers because basically again it gets to the
type of geography as to where we are deploying the kind of capability
looking for. In Arizona, for example, when I was the chief of
the Border Patrol, we lined out the exact number of towers that
had a view shed that had a capability to cover an entire area,
but along with that we had some problems. Because we had, for
example, Tohono Oodham Nation 75 miles of the border of
the Tucson sector, of where I was chief, bottom line is we were
not allowed to because of the sovereignty of the nation
to build that type of technological capabilities. But today there
are technological capabilities that could now basically give that
same type of situational awareness. Drones, tethered drones, that
are basically going to have eye view of view sheds of seven or
eight miles wide, maybe even higher. So, areas where we cannot
put an integrated fixed tower or a remote video surveillance system.
And, by the way, the integrated fixed towers have the capability
of a view shed of 8, 10, 12, 13 miles depending on where they
are placed. Line of sight, line of sight for infrared capabilities,
line of sight for Doppler radar, line of sight for camerasvery
high quality, very high fidelity cameras. So it all depends on
where you are going to be placing them. There is, there are plans
in place by the Border Patrol for the entirety of the southwest
border. Now we also have to take into account that as an example
integrated fixed towers, which work very well in Arizona, will
not work as well in south Texas. The reason for that is the vegetation,
the density, the triple canopies. So all of those things need
to be taken into account. But, the chiefs are aware of what they
need. There are designs out there that basically have been put
in place for that.