Things have gotten pretty bad in Mexico. How bad? Try 1,000 drug-cartel related murders in January, following 6,000 such murders in all of 2008—which itself was double the previous record.
Lest they’re accused of not doing anything about it—on either side of the border—members of the Department of Homeland Security took to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to assure members of Congress that they’re both trying to train and equip Mexican law enforcement officials to deal with the carnage, as well as throwing up a wall of sensors and ISR equipment at the border to try and contain the violence on one side of the fence.
Jayson Ahern, acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that the Dept. of Homeland Security has “purchased 40 mobile surveillance systems and deployed them to the southwest border,” and explained that the Dept. is developing systems “to process and analyze imagery collected from aircraft and other platforms.” Much of this ISR gear is related to the controversial, $8 billion SBInet (Secure Border Initiative) project, run by Boeing, which members of Congress have cited for lack of DHS oversight and overreliance on contractors to move the project along.
Sounds familiar, no?
SBInet seeks to blanket the U.S. / Mexican border with towers equipped with radars, cameras and communications equipment, as well as other sensor and command and control gear. Ahern said that testing on the system is progressing through the summer, and officials are planning to have Block 1 complete between 2011 and 2012.
And it’s not just the U.S. side of the border getting all the cool stuff. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen recently said that part of the assistance the United States should provide Mexican authorities are things like “ISR, that kind of capability.” The emphasis on military and law enforcement aid will be on sharing intelligence “but in recognition that there are additional assets that could be brought to bear across the full ISR spectrum.”