De­fense firm wants to ex­pand bor­der tow­ers

Texarkana Gazette - - STATE -

FORT WORTH, Texas—A Fort Worth de­fense con­trac­tor that mon­i­tors part of the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der with high-tech sur­veil­lance tow­ers is look­ing to ex­pand the tech­nol­ogy in more states along the south­ern bor­der.

El­bit Sys­tems of Amer­ica has op­er­ated dozens of tow­ers along the bor­der in Ari­zona since 2015 un­der a $145 mil­lion con­tract with U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, the Fort Worth Star-Tele­gram re­ported. The Texas com­pany is a U.S. sub­sidiary of Is­raeli de­fense con­trac­tor El­bit Sys­tems.

The 80- to 120-foot tow­ers are equipped with radar sen­sors and cam­eras to de­tect mo­tion along 200 miles of the Ari­zona bor­der. The mon­i­tor­ing is used as an early warn­ing sys­tem so that a Bor­der Pa­trol agent can be dis­patched, if needed.

“They’re able to de­ter­mine, are in­di­vid­u­als car­ry­ing back­packs, which might be an in­di­ca­tion of drug loads, or are they car­ry­ing weapons, which might in­di­cate a higher level of threat,” said Gor­don Kest­ing, the Texas con­trac­tor’s vice pres­i­dent of home­land se­cu­rity.

El­bit of­fi­cials said they’re eager to ex­pand the tower sys­tem in Texas, New Mex­ico and Cal­i­for­nia, as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­tin­ues talks on bor­der se­cu­rity.

Trump is plan­ning to hold a rally on Mon­day in El Paso to drum up sup­port for his call for $5.7 bil­lion in bor­der wall fund­ing. The pres­i­dent re­ferred to the bor­der city in his State of the Union ad­dress last week as a vi­o­lent crime hub be­fore a bor­der fence was built, a claim that’s been dis­puted by sev­eral Texas Democrats.

Bob Ed­monds, El­bit’s vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing, said the cam­era tow­ers aren’t meant to re­place a bor­der wall but to com­ple­ment ex­ist­ing bar­ri­ers in ar­eas such as El Paso.

Ed­monds said the Bor­der Pa­trol re­quested an ex­pan­sion of the com­pany’s cam­era tower sys­tem, but he de­clined to spec­ify how much it would cost to cover the rest of the U.S. south­ern bor­der.

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