The Homeland Security Department plans as soon as January to open bidding on a 10-year contract to replace a failed $1 billion border surveillance project, according to DHS officials.
Two weeks after a federal audit lambasted the department's plans for a follow-on project, it announced Thursday afternoon that it will issue a draft request for proposals early next month, followed by a final RFP in January or February. The timeline and some details about requirements for constructing the interconnected towers in Arizona were communicated through the Federal Business Opportunities procurement website. Whereas the defunct Secure Border Initiative network consisted of a one-size-fits-all installation along the southwest border, each new deployment is expected to custom fit the weather and landscape of its surroundings.
The "Integrated Fixed Towers" contract, as described, calls for towers equipped with ground radars and surveillance cameras; supporting power generation; and devices for command and control workstations capable of displaying the captured images and data. This arrangement is intended to provide Customs and Border Protection agents with a full view of any illicit border crossings, drug trafficking or other criminal activity.
According to the notice, the solicitation will ask for commercial products that can be deployed immediately after the contract is awarded. Vendors will be required to provide maintenance and support throughout the 10-year work period.
DHS officials are interested in towers that can "detect a single, walking, average-sized adult human at a range of up to 7.5 miles," the notice states. The apparatus needs to withstand wind gusts of up to 15 miles per hour and the equipment must be able to see a person even if foliage is blocking 95 percent of the individual for brief periods of time. SBInet equipment malfunctioned in the harsh Arizona climate.
The towers should stand 120 feet high at most, according to department officials. The notice does not specify the sites where the facilities will be located but it says the government will take care of purchasing the land. The contractor will have to outfit the command stations with consoles, desks and office cabinets.
After receiving proposals, Homeland Security may call in viable applicants to demonstrate live, at the company's expense, that their systems operate as advertised. The rationale for this requirement, according to the notice, is "to reduce the government's risk by confirming that the offered system is available for immediate deployment."
The first phase of the future project, called the Arizona Technology Deployment Plan, is projected to cost $1.5 billion. A Nov. 4 Government Accountability Office report criticized Homeland Security for neglecting to include a believable cost estimate and strategic documents in the plan.