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Boeing Said to Have Won Border Control Contract

September 20, 2006|From Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Aerospace and defense giant Boeing Co. has won a multibillion-dollar contract to revamp how the United States guards about 6,000 miles of border in an attempt to curb illegal immigration, congressional sources said Tuesday.

Boeing's proposal relied heavily on a network of 1,800 towers -- some of which already exist, but most of which would be erected along the borders with Mexico and Canada. Each tower would be equipped with sensors, including cameras and heat and motion detectors.

The company's efforts would be the basis of the government's latest attempt to control the country's borders. The contract, part of the Secure Border Initiative, will again test the ability of technology to solve a problem that lawmakers have said is a crucial national security concern. This time, the private sector is being given an unusually large say in how to do it.

Boeing sold its plan to the Homeland Security Department as less risky and less expensive than competing proposals that would have relied heavily on drones for routine surveillance work. Boeing plans only limited use of small unmanned aerial vehicles that could be launched from the backs of border patrol trucks when needed to help pursue suspects.

The system is to be installed first along the Mexican border in an area south of Tucson known as a key crossing point for illegal immigrants.

The public announcement of the award is planned for Thursday. Several congressional and industry sources Tuesday confirmed that Boeing had beaten four other companies in one of the most intensely fought contract competitions this year.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the competition. Homeland Security spokesman Larry Orluskie said the department was "really close" to making an award.

Boeing declined to comment, pending official notification.

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