Cashing in on “Border Security”


Randall G. Shelden



As I have repeatedly said over the years, crime pays – for the “crime control industry” that is.  Current expenditures on the criminal justice system now top $200 billion annually.  To this number we should add another $50 - $100 billion for various kinds of “private security” ranging from ordinary “rent-a-cops” to elaborate high-tech surveillance in many gated communities.  Thousands of businesses, ranging from “mom and pop” security companies to huge corporations have been “cashing in on crime.”  To take just one example, the American Correctional Association (which represents thousands of those working in the vast correctional system – prison guards, probation and parole officers, etc.) holds two annual meetings each year (one in August and one in January).  At least 200 different companies either attend these meetings to display their products in a large room at the conference hotel or advertise in Corrections Today (the monthly magazine for this association). 


The latest development is associated with the “war on terrorism” which, under the latest crime fighting bureaucracy “The Department of Homeland “Security” (DHS), includes what has come to be called “border security” – specifically our southern border with Mexico.  Part of the proposed $43.5 billion DHS budget for fiscal year 2007 includes a little known the $2.5 billion Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet).  A recent article on the web site revealed that several companies are chomping at the bit to secure lucrative contracts for border security, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Ericsson. These corporations have been called together by the Bush Administration and Homeland Security to form their own “teams” of companies with expertise in the security industry.  For instance, Raytheon’s “team” consists of such companies as Apogen Technologies, BAE Systems, IBM and a familiar name, Bechtel.


While a few businesses have been proposing building high walls, the most common proposals include high-tech security systems.  For instance, Sensor Technologies and Systems of Scottsdale, Arizona, has a “ground radar system” already in use in the West Bank conflict (war is good for business).  Several companies are proposing the use of remote-controlled aerial surveillance technologies, such as Northrop’s Global Hawk drone.  A company called Octatron has an “urban mini-drone.” Ericsson boasts it can provide border patrol agents with the ability to send “digital fingerprints” of immigrants arrested in the field and send them to a central location for identification.


The office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is teaming up with the Office of Detention and Removal for more efficient processing of “illegal aliens.” Not surprisingly, Halliburton is in on the action, as they have been awarded a contract (worth about $410 million) for new detention facilities.


Lockheed Martin appears to have an inside track for the overall $2.5 billion SBInet contract, since Michael Jackson, a former Lockheed executive, is currently Deputy Director of Homeland Security. This is nothing new, since corporate executives have always filled key posts within the government, in order to secure taxpayer money for their own profit making. (And vice versa as many former government employees have moved into the corporate sector.) At a meeting with more than 400 defense contractors back in January (during a government-sponsored “Industry Day”) Jackson said, “We’re asking you to come back and tell us how to do our business.” 


Not to be outdone, several others in line for the contract have ties to the federal government and Homeland Security.  A recent investigation by the New York Times revealed that about 100 former DHS and White House executives are working for companies involved in the security business.  Both the Washington Post and The American Prospect have exposed similar ties. The Post found that Republican Congressman Harold Rogers has received generous contributions from several companies who in turn received rather sizable DHS contracts – and some even opened new offices in his district once he became chair of a budget committee.  A lobbying company called Blank Rome LLP in Philadelphia was awarded some lucrative contracts from DHS, thanks in part to the fact that one of the partners is David Norcross, who chaired the arrangement committee for the Republication National Convention in 2004; the firm also has a close relationship with former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge.


Given the track record so far in the “war on terrorism” and our handling of “immigration problem” one would reasonably predict that the only beneficiaries of the “privatization of border security” are the companies receiving the $2.5 billion contracts.  One can easily imagine what could be done with this amount of money for human betterment.


© 2006, Randall G. Shelden. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced without permission from the author.