Funding is reserved for UAVs to monitor borders

Congressional appropriators reserved about $100 million in the fiscal 2008 budget for the Homeland Security Department to use unmanned aerial vehicles to control the nation's borders but only if the department meets certain conditions.

Appropriators expressed strong support for UAVs as part of the department's border security strategy. The funding is part of a comprehensive spending bill that Congress cleared Wednesday.

"As evidenced by the significant increases in border security funding in this bill, the committees on Appropriations support the goal of obtaining operational control of the nation's borders and coastlines," appropriators wrote in a report accompanying the bill. They said they "included funding to hire additional Border Patrol agents; install vehicle barriers, ground-based radar and cameras; and procure unmanned aerial systems."

The measure includes $2.7 billion in emergency funding for border security, of which $82 million could be used to buy new UAVs, a congressional aide said. Outside of emergency funds, the bill would provide about $15 million for the department to support existing UAV operations.

Customs and Border Protection, which manages the department's UAVs used for border security, is evaluating the budget bill and how new funds could best be used, a spokesman said.

The spokesman said the agency bought its third Predator B from contractor General Atomics this week. He said the department plans to buy three additional Predators in 2008. One would be deployed to the northern border, another to the southwest border and the third to Florida to support maritime operations, he said.

Appropriators, however, placed conditions on the UAVs. The bill would direct CBP to submit an updated expenditure plan for its air and marine operations, including certification that new UAV procurements support the agency's priorities and are the most effective use of funding.

Appropriators stipulated that the agency must evaluate the potential of UAVs "to significantly enhance [department] intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities against investments in proven, manned aviation assets."

Additionally, appropriators directed the agency to develop a plan for how UAVs will be used in both the civilian airspace and over water, and how the mission of the agency's UAVs will be coordinated with other government agencies.

Specifically, the agency must work with the Federal Aviation Administration to test the safety of UAVs and to determine the risk of mid-air collisions with manned aircraft. To that end, CBP also must work with the FAA to evaluate whether special rules are needed for small-scale UAVs, appropriators said.

The budget bill would rescind $132 million for the Coast Guard's offshore patrol cutter and UAV. The assets are part of the Coast Guard's Deepwater fleet-modernization program, which has come under fire for a myriad of problems and has been restructured. "Both of these programs are in a state of pre-acquisition and development," appropriators wrote.

Instead, the bill would provide funding for the Coast Guard to research and test what would be the most effective UAV for the agency to use. A total of $25 million was provided for Coast Guard research, development, testing and evaluation, but it is not clear how much of that is for the UAV.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.