Border Security Expo thinks budget cuts - Tucson News Now

Border Security Expo thinks budget cuts

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With the sequester hanging overhead, nearly 200 high tech vendors gathered in Phoenix to sell their wares.

"All of our sales are to government agencies of local agencies," says David Hiedel, a marketing manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

But for how long is the question. With the defense department facing billions of dollars in cuts, Border Patrol agents and other government workers being furloughed and the Department of Homeland Security facing across the board cuts, it's created uncertainty

"I think it's an issue to anyone who sells to the government because you don't know what's happening to the dollars," Heidel says.

And for the Border Security Expo the concern is apparent after two of the main speakers, both from the Border Patrol, canceled at the last minute, citing budget constraints.

That has people who have built surveillance equipment for border security also looking elsewhere for customers.

"Everything from terrorism to border to search and rescue to swat operations, narcotics border interdiction," says William Drew Dodds. director of sales for Strongwatch, a Tucson Company.

He's showing his latest tool. A pick-up truck that looks no different than any one off the lot.

Except peel back the cover over the bed and a camera starts to raise up to 25 feet in the air.

It's loaded with infra-red, laser and standard cameras. It has a three mile range.

"You have a lot of issues with spotters on the mountain tops getting information to the cartels, people running drugs," Dodds says.

And by looking at the truck, you'd never guess it's a surveillance vehicle.

"That's the beauty of it," he says.

The company points out the truck is used by the Phoenix police department for crowd situations and the Pima County Sheriff's Department in remote areas.

Just around the corner, Patti Shoffer-Gordon is selling what looks like a drone but really isn't she says.

"It's an ISR," she says. "I'm not sure how you define a drone. We just call it an ISR."

In the security world that would be intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance.

Drones are getting some nasty press these days so people are looking for another terminology that means the same.

Her ISR has two capabilities. It can be armed with ammunition or it can be just armed with a camera.

It hovers at 500 feet for about an hour. It has two cameras. It's small and looks exactly like a bird, a hawk.

That's the idea.

"We're testing it right now for the army," she adds.

As to whether it would ever be used on the border, armed "absolutely not, no," she says.

 

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