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Saturday, May 20, 2006 

For Whom "The Wall" Profits: I

After the events of 9/11, the US has dramatically altered the political landscape for positive immigration reform, and so has the old adage that good fences make good neighbors. The saying has now taken on a new meaning now that the Senate has voted to construct a 370 mile "Border Wall" along the Southern border.

The short term plan for border security involves the National Guard. However the long term plan is another story. Via Gordo at appletreeblog.com, the New York Times report that the construction of the "Border Wall" will go through the Secure Borders Initiative (SBI) which will involve BushCo defense contractor regulars with their expensive toys.
...to really patch up the broken border, President Bush is preparing to turn to a familiar administration partner: the nation's giant military contractors.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest, are among the companies that said they would submit bids within two weeks for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build what the administration calls a "virtual fence" along the nation's land borders.

Using some of the same high-priced, high-tech tools these companies have already put to work in Iraq and Afghanistan — like unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment — the military contractors are zeroing in on the rivers, deserts, mountains and settled areas that separate Mexico and Canada from the United States.
The contractors will not only supply the technology but they will also develop the strategy on how to use the technology and how to utilize the soldiers to secure the borders.
"This is an unusual invitation," the deputy secretary of homeland security, Michael Jackson, told contractors this year at an industry briefing, just before the bidding period for this new contract started. "We're asking you to come back and tell us how to do our business."
Sounds like BushCo is outsourcing the Pentagon as well as privatizing the military and this is not new according to Peter W. Singer, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. (PDF):
The industry, known as "privatized military firms" ("PMFs"), range from small consulting firms, comprised of retired generals, to transnational corporations that lease out wings of fighter jets or battalions of commandos. ... [F]rom 1994-2002, the U.S. Defense Department entered into over 3,000 contracts with U.S.-based firms, estimated at a contract value of more than US$300 billion. PMFs now provide the logistics for every major U.S. military deployment, and have even taken over the Reserve Officer Training Corps ("ROTC") programs at over two hundred U.S. universities; that is, private company employees now train the U.S. military leaders of tomorrow. In fact, with the recent purchase of Military Professional Resources Inc., a PMF based in Virginia, by the Fortune-500 corporation L-3, many Americans unknowingly own slices of the industry in their 401(k) stock portfolios.
Prior to March 2003, the Pentagon contracted with Northrop Grumman to their unmanned Predator drones, Global Hawk, in the invasion of Iraq. The same type of unmanned Predator drones that will be used for the border according to the New York Times report. It was also Northrop Grumman who manned the B-2 stealth bombers weapons systems in Iraq.

Another contractor that will enjoy the spoils of the war on immigrants is Raytheon. Raytheon plans to provide a package of sensor and video equipment that is currently used in Iraq. Back in Oct 2005, Raytheon stated in a press release it was awarded $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Defense's Counter-Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office for Raytheon 's Project ATHENA.
Project ATHENA is a joint battlespace information infrastructure that enables the integration of a wide range of information and data provided by a variety of sensors and information sources. It provides a common operating picture of real-time events, which enables responders to quickly discern information and respond to threats arising from the maritime environment.
Then in April 2006, Raytheon completed their test on Project ATHENA in Brownsville, TX.
A high-tech system to guard the southern U.S. border known as Project Athena was tested recently by Raytheon.

The Athena command and sensor network was used for six weeks to support Border Patrol and Customs operations with surveillance and "actionable intelligence" in the sprawling Rio Grande sector.
According to Raytheon's Press Release:
Raytheon Company's Project Athena successfully completed an operational demonstration along the southwest border of Texas to provide persistent multi-domain surveillance and "actionable intelligence" to a joint interagency task force in support of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) law enforcement agencies.

The Athena integrated C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and sensor system was rapidly fielded to support the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Rio Grande Sector and 14 other interagency partners. During the six-week mission, Athena and CBP successfully detected, intercepted and deterred transnational threats, drugs, and alien smuggling across the U.S.-Mexican border over a large joint operations area including 160 miles of coastline, 120 miles of land border, and nine ports of entry.
It is hard to tell what the true function of Project ATHENA would actually do from the news clipping or from the press releases. However, in Dec 2005, the Boston Globe ran a story on another test Raytheon conducted. The article is very disturbing.
Athena is part of a larger push by Raytheon, the nation's fifth-largest military contractor, into homeland security. With the growth in spending expected to slow in the second half of this decade at the Department of Defense, its top customer, executives of the Waltham company have set their sights on capturing more business from the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies that fund new programs protecting air and sea ports, borders, railroads, and highways.

Project Athena, which seeks to foil both terrorists and drug traffickers, was deployed for a 45-day field demonstration at the Port of Buffalo this fall. Raytheon is now using feedback from the US Northern Command on the Buffalo trial to refine the system's "anomaly detection and response" capabilities as it prepares for deployments at two other US ports this winter and spring. Thus far, Raytheon has won $8.5 million in contracts from the Pentagon's Counter-Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office for Athena, but it's positioning itself to compete for much larger orders when the opportunity arises.
"The 'who pays' issue hasn't been resolved," noted Mary Anne Sudol, defense and aerospace analyst for the New York brokerage Caris & Co. "There's been a lot of tugging between the federal, state, and local governments, and the independent port authorities. Ports say it's a federal mandate, but the Homeland Security department says the responsibility rests with the port authorities." ... [T]he heart of the Athena system uses sensors, cameras, radars, public databases, and satellite imagery originally rolled out for military programs.

Project Athena is a networked system that can be installed at shore sites or quickly assembled at remote command posts. It integrates information from a variety of sensors and data banks to track container and tanker ships and other maritime activity. Software programs crawl through thousands of online shipping records to identify suspicious ships based on their ownership, history, registration, or destination. Once they are identified, Athena operators can track targeted ships through aerial or satellite surveillance and alert defense authorities to a potential threat.

As it expands, the system will also track activity in and around coastal airports and in air space over the ocean, working on the premise that a hijacked plane could attack an oil tanker, or a terrorist on a ship could launch a shoulder-fired missile at a passenger jet. Similarly, alternating between wide-area views and zooming in on specific targets, it will seek to keep tabs on smaller boats, coastal industrial plants, rail installations, and ground vehicles traveling on roads near ports.
According to the NY Times, another high tech toy will be used will come from Lockheed Martin. Lockheed has plans to use the Tethered Aerostat Radar. According to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS):
Tethered Aerostat Radar System is a balloon-borne radar. The primary aerostat mission is to provide radar data in support of other federal agencies involved in the nation's drug interdiction program. One aerostat, located at Cudjoe Key, Fla., transmits TV Marti, which sends American television signals into Cuba for the U.S. Information Agency. The air drug interdiction program consists of land-based aerostat radar detection ballons along the U.S. southern border and in the Carribbean, and a series of airborne surveillance assets such as P-3 AEW, interceptor aircraft, and apprehension helicopters. The purpose is to seal off the border to illegal drugs coming in by aircraft. The program has been expanded to interdict the narcotic flow before it gets to the U.S. border.
But aerostat balloons are not perfect. Weather, terrain, and other factors affect the performance of the aerostats. They have proven to be a fair weather friend. They must be brought to ground in high winds. Significant problems have plagued the contractor trying to get the bugs out of the aerostats plan for the Texas border.
Formidable problems that will arise as DHS and PMFs navigate through uncharted territory - these problems will consist of accountability, ideology, and national interest. And by definition a private military company is a business regardless they are in Iraq or the Southern border, their primary purpose is not to pursue US policy, but to make money. The stakes at protecting our borders are far higher than in the corporate realm: in this most essential public sphere, national security and people's lives are constantly put at risk.


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  • From Tejas, United States
  • Un Xicano who is tired of the current status quo.
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