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Homeland Security

Remote Video Surveillance (RVS)

Other than having an OBP agent on site, thermal-infrared, low-level light and multiple color cameras provide the most effective means of identification. Since cameras provide a visual means to evaluate activity on a real-time basis, they are the most effective technology used by OBP to differentiate between illegal activity and legitimate events. Cameras with remotely controlled pan and tilt capability can cover a wider field of view than cameras with fixed viewpoints.

However, RVS cameras are limited. RVS cameras do not have the ability to detect movement. Therefore, illegal activity may go unnoticed unless OBP personnel happen to be monitoring video terminals at the time an illegal crossing is in progress. RVS cameras are only operational when electrical power is available. Recognizing the vulnerability to local power outages, one sector we visited installed back-up power to cameras located near corridors with a high volume of illegal alien traffic. Not all camera sites have back-up power sources. Also, extreme weather conditions can affect camera operation. For example, excessively high or low temperatures can cause cameras not to respond to remote pan and tilt commands. On the northern border, OBP sector personnel suggested that all cameras be equipped with heaters to melt snow and ice build-up that otherwise might impede the camera's operation. Likewise, cooled cameras in hot and humid conditions can improve quality resolution.

When RVS camera systems were designed, each TD called for the installation of a number of camera sites along the border and one control room where the camera video is sent and can be viewed. The control rooms are installed in either a station or sector communications center. The communications infrastructure for an RVS camera can only send the video signal to a single control room regardless of whether that control room is in a station or sector communications center.

RVS camera surveillance video can be viewed only at one designated OBP sector or station communications center. Sharing surveillance video with other locations would require the infrastructure necessary to transmit, receive, and monitor signals from desired camera locations. Even if ISIS was fully integrated, due to a limited number of operational RVS sites (255 nationwide), integration opportunities would be limited to the areas near these sites. The remainder of the border is covered by sensor technology only or not covered by any remote surveillance technology.

Over the life of the ISIS program, different regulations, contracts, and agreements for various durations governed the installation of the RVS sites. According to OBP, there were two primary contract vehicles for RVS installations. Both were GSA federal supply service contracts. In September 1998, INS entered into an interagency agreement with GSA through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). According to the MOU, GSA would provide information processing services through task orders to private sector contractors, and GSA would provide the contracting officer and the contracting officer's technical representative. In March 1999, the International Microwave Corporation (IMC) was awarded a contract to engineer, install, manage, and provide remote surveillance equipment and support to multiple sites throughout the United States.

Following the initial award to IMC, OBP requested that a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) be issued to IMC by GSA. OBP cited cost savings as the greatest benefit of a BPA. Specifically, OBP highlighted a unique teaming alliance IMC had with five technology companies, which would result in favorable equipment discounts up to 16 percent below the GSA federal schedule price list. Additionally, OBP stated that IMC had emerged as the principal systems integrator, and that approval of the BPA would help standardize the RVS equipment by eliminating the continual requests from the field for customization. In November 2000, GSA issued a BPA with IMC to support all RVS requirements through September 30, 2004.

Under the terms of the BPA, the contractor was obligated to (1) perform technical and construction feasibility assessments of sites identified by OBP; (2) perform preliminary real estate coordination, which included determining land ownership and property rights; (3) coordinate environmental assessment activities; (4) assist in obtaining permits, zoning approvals, and lease or memorandums of understanding between the government and the land owner; (5) develop preliminary designs, including geotechnical surveys, foundation design, and boundary design; (6) deliver, install, and test each RVS component; and, (7) provide system operation and maintenance support, system documentation such as final design plans, and any other documentation or equipment deemed necessary under the approved technical directives (TD).

Deficiencies in the contract management and processes used to install ISIS equipment have resulted in more than $37 million in DHS funds remaining in General Services Administration (GSA) accounts; delays in installing, testing, and bringing on-line RVS sites that are operational; and 168 incomplete RVS camera sites. Efforts to enhance and expand remote surveillance coverage will continue to face numerous challenges, i.e., streamlining the RVS camera site selection process and addressing environmental, cultural, and historic restrictions.

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Page last modified: 13-07-2011 12:51:30 ZULU