A recent tour of the Arizona-Mexican border led Gov. Jan Brewer, titular leader of a border-security political movement, to call for more “boots on the ground.”
That is not all the Republican governor wants when it comes to border security.
“We need more, probably a little, more fencing, a lot more fencing, in the areas where it would be productive," Brewer said, "UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in the air, more technology."
Technology and officers, patrols and boots are often grouped together in calls for better security, and now technology businesses in Tucson are answering part of the call.
DRS Technologies is showing off its surveillance gear by having set up a permanent test tower near the University of Arizona Tech Park on Tucson's southeast side.
The company’s executive director says he hopes the field test will convince the Border Patrol to buy DRS products.
“Our solution involves long-range radar with long range cameras that can see both at the day and during the night, that can detect activity,” said James Hynes. “That will allow an operator to see that detection on a command and control screen, they can then put that camera on the target and see what it is.”
Another company, Tucson-based Strongwatch, is marketing a pickup truck-based surveillance system that uses a video game controller to run the cameras, said Strongwatch principal field engineer Drew Dodds.
“Its readily available," Dodds said. "It is an off-the-shelf product. It costs you about $50 if you break one. So it is very easy to replace, very affordable, vs. more traditional, standard military controllers that can cost thousands of dollars and take weeks to build."
When it comes to border technology, some who are skeptical. U.S. Sen. John McCain says he understands the concern, claiming that Boeing Co. took in billions on government contracts for "a series of sensors all across the Southwest border and it utterly failed."
The use of more border technology also faces one more hurdle: money. The federal government is operating under a 5 percent mandatory budget cut.