Once again, President Bush has proven that no problem is too big or too controversial that it can’t be solved with massive giveaways to corporate campaign contributors and a corresponding increase in the national debt. The New York Times reports today that:
Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest (contractors), are among the companies that said they would submit bids within two weeks for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build what the administration calls a “virtual fence” along the nation’s land borders.
Using some of the same high-priced, high-tech tools these companies have already put to work in Iraq and Afghanistan — like unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment — the military contractors are zeroing in on the rivers, deserts, mountains and settled areas that separate Mexico and Canada from the United States.
Folks around the Web have caught on, but nobody in New Mexico has picked up on the story yet. It strikes me as somewhat odd: rather than spend the money to train Border Patrol agents (most likely at the facility in Artesia), who would then live in border communities and contribute to the local economy, by buying homes and shopping at local (sic) grocery stores, the government is going to spend the cash on high-tech gizmos. I might be more enthusiastic, but here’s how the government’s tech programs have worked out in the past:
The government’s track record in the last decade in trying to buy cutting-edge technology to monitor the border — devices like video cameras, sensors and other tools that came at a cost of at least $425 million — is dismal.
Because of poor contract oversight, nearly half of video cameras ordered in the late 1990’s did not work or were not installed. The ground sensors installed along the border frequently sounded alarms. But in 92 percent of the cases, they were sending out agents to respond to what turned out to be a passing wild animal, a train or other nuisances, according to a report late last year by the homeland security inspector general.
A more recent test with an unmanned aerial vehicle bought by the department got off to a similarly troubling start. The $6.8 million device, which has been used in the last year to patrol a 300-mile stretch of the Arizona border at night, crashed last month.
And for a different take, here’s former New Mexican Kathy Flake on other options for that cash:
I wonder what would happen if we spent billions on job growth programs in Mexico?
That’s an interesting idea! Why don’t we try to fix the source of problem?
Thanks to Needlenose for the heads up.