Texas Defense Contractor Wants to Expand Border Towers

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -
U.S. National Guard checks on his colleague inside a Border Patrol Skybox near the Hidalgo International Bridge in Hidalgo, Texas. (AP Photo/Delcia Lopez, File)

A Fort Worth defense contractor that monitors part of the United States-Mexico border with high-tech surveillance towers is looking to expand the technology in more states along the southern border.

Elbit Systems of America has operated dozens of towers along the border in Arizona since 2015 under a $145 million contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The Texas company is a U.S. subsidiary of Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems.

Electronic camera tower that monitors the Rio Grande River at the U.S-Mexico border from Laredo, Texas, in June, 2007. (AP Photo/LM Otero/File)

The 80- to 120-foot towers are equipped with radar sensors and cameras to detect motion along 200 miles of the Arizona border. The monitoring is used as an early warning system so that a Border Patrol agent can be dispatched, if needed.

“They’re able to determine, are individuals carrying backpacks, which might be an indication of drug loads, or are they carrying weapons, which might indicate a higher level of threat,” said Gordon Kesting, the Texas contractor’s vice president of homeland security.

Elbit officials said they’re eager to expand the tower system in Texas, New Mexico and California, as President Donald Trump continues talks on border security.

Trump is planning to hold a rally on Monday in El Paso to drum up support for his call for $5.7 billion in border wall funding. The president referred to the border city in his State of the Union address last week as a violent crime hub before a border fence was built, a claim that’s been disputed by several Texas Democrats.

Bob Edmonds, Elbit’s vice president of marketing, said the camera towers aren’t meant to replace a border wall, but to complement existing barriers in areas, such as El Paso.

Edmonds said the Border Patrol requested an expansion of the company’s camera tower system, but he declined to specify how much it would cost to cover the rest of the U.S. southern border.