Border Surveillance and Monitoring

In addition to the physical barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, there is a “digital wall” that incorporates 8,000 cameras, 11,000 underground sensors, and a fleet of 107 aircrafts, 8 drones, and 260 surveillance vehicles and boats. The “digital wall” covers nearly the entire 2,000 mile border.

The U.S.-Mexico border is becoming increasing militarized. Over the past two decades, there has been a dramatic increase in surveillance tools and technologies being used on the border, as well as an increase in the number of border patrol agents. In ten years, the number of border patrol agents more than doubled and there are currently 20,000 agents monitoring the border. These agents utilize “military-style” tactics, strategies, and tools, such as drones, military helicopters, and remote surveillance systems. The increased militarization has led to dehumanization and violent behavior by the border patrol agents on the southwest border, as well as a wave of anti-immigration legislation within the country.

The surveillance and monitoring of the U.S.-Mexico border is a multi-billion-dollar industry. There are many military contractors supplying the same tools and technologies to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol as the U.S. military. The following text provides a summary of the surveillance and monitoring on the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as the companies involved in the sector.

Constructing the “Digital Wall” on the U.S.-Mexico Border

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) utilizes a myriad of tools and technologies to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border. The tools include:

-          Integrated Fixed Towers
-          Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS)
-          Remote Video Surveillance System
-          Intelligent Computer Assisted Detection
-          Law Enforcement Technical Collection
-          Mobile Video Surveillance System
-          Mobile Surveillance Capability
-          Agent Portable Surveillance System
-          Ultra-Light Aircraft Detection
In addition, there are almost 20,000 border patrol agents, as of March 2018.

There have been several unsuccessful and costly attempts at creating a comprehensive border surveillance program on the U.S.-Mexico border. In 1997, an L-3 Communications subsidiary was awarded $43 million to create the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System and give the border “digital eyes and ears.” The program was scrapped due to errors and constant delays and, in 2005, morphed into America’s Shield Initiative. America’s Shield Initiative cost $163.6 million and was cancelled due to problems, lack of integration, and poor oversight.  In 2011, DHS initiated the Secure Border Initiative (SBI). The program was to run the entire 2000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The contract was awarded to Boeing with an expected cost of $2.5 billion, but was cancelled soon after due to software errors.

In 2011, Elbit Systems was contracted to create the Border Surveillance System (BSS). The project is still ongoing and is expected to finish in 2020. The BSS combines the previous surveillance iterations, and includes the tools and technologies listed above. The contract had an original price of $145 million.


There are many publicly-traded companies within the sector. In addition to companies being the primary on integrating the various tools and technologies, such as Boeing with SBI or Elbit with BSS, there are many companies that produce the tools and technologies, such as cameras, sensors, vehicles, unmanned aircrafts, and x-ray and cargo inspection software. The latest iteration of the border surveillance plan includes Integrated Fixed Towers and remote video and mobile surveillance capabilities.

General Dynamics and CSRA, Inc. have been awarded contracts to provide the CBP remote video surveillance systems. Telephonics Corporation, a subsidiary of Griffon Corporation, and FLIR Integrated Systems, Inc. have provided CBP with mobile surveillance capabilities.  Unisys has provided facial recognition software and Smiths Detection, ManTech, and American Science Engineering, Inc., a subsidiary of OSI Systems, provided vehicle and cargo inspection software. Elbit, Vectrus, and Lockheed Martin have provided drones.

The main companies in this sector are:
American Science & Engineering, Inc., of Billerica, MA (NASDAQ: ASEI)
CSRA, Inc., of Falls Church, VA (NYSE: CSRA)x
Elbit Systems Ltd., of Haifa, Israel (NASDAQ: ESLT)
FLIR Systems, of Wilsonville, OR (NASDAQ: FLIR)
General Dynamics, of West Falls Church, VA (NYSE: GD)
Griffon Corporation, of New York City, NY (NYSE: GFF)
Harris Corporation, of Melbourne, FL (NYSE: HRS)
L-3 Technologies, of New York City, NY (NYSE: LLL)
Leidos, of Reston, VA (NYSE: LDOS)
Lockheed Martin, of Bethesda, MD (NYSE: LMT)
Northrop Grumman, of Falls Church, VA (NYSE: NOC)
OSI Systems, of Hawthorne, CA (NASDAQ: OSIS)
Raytheon Company, of Waltham, MA (NYSE: RTN)
Smiths Group plc, of London, UK (LON: SMIN)
The Boeing Company, of Chicago, IL (NYSE: BA)
Unisys Corporation, of Blue Bell, PA (NYSE: UIS)
Vectrus, of Colorado Springs, CO (NYSE: VEC)