Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Last week, standing alongside representatives from Bingen-based The Insitu Group, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) reported that the president has signed into law her legislation to begin a pilot program to test the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to patrol America's northern border.
The proposal could give southwest Washington companies a bigger role in securing the rugged northern border with Canada. Cantwell included the UAS proposal in the 2007 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which was given final approval by Congress on Sept. 29 and signed into law by the president on Oct. 4.
"We cannot turn our backs on the tremendous security risk along our northern border," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Northern Border Coalition. "We already know that terrorists have tried to cross our northern border and that stretches of our rural border terrain are rife with drug traffic. This poses a serious threat to northern border communities and our country. Using the best technology to build a multi-layered security network will help us keep a better eye on our border and stop illegal activity in its tracks. We cannot take security along our border lightly."
The bipartisan UAS plan, introduced by Sens. Cantwell and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), will initiate a pilot program to test the use of unmanned aerial systems along America's northern border. The proposal is backed by Spokane, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, and Stevens county officials. Unmanned aircraft have already been tested and used along America's southern border.
Using UAS to patrol the northern border will help expand the reach and effectiveness of border agents, helping them survey remote areas, reduce drug smuggling, curb human trafficking, and stop other crimes.
At last week's event, representatives from Insitu provided a video demonstration of their ScanEagle UAS, which has been deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan and could help patrol the northern border as well.
Unmanned aerial systems can fly for long periods of time before needing to refuel. They also eliminate the possible loss of life associated with manned aircraft.
The 2007 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act also includes Cantwell-sponsored provisions to criminalize the construction of border tunnels, invest $87 million in explosives detection research, and authorize a pilot program to test a new Integrated Container Inspection System for scanning all U.S.-bound cargo containers at three foreign ports.