U.S. efforts to secure the Mexican border will receive $600 million worth of supplemental funds to add technology, manpower and infrastructure to the border, this according to a speech given by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday at the University of Texas–El Paso. Part of the Southwest Border Initiative (SWI) is to end the SBInet program officially and reallocate resources to purchase better technologies, including unmanned aerial vehicles.

Napolitano said that the Obama administration is concerned about the drug-cartel violence taking place in Mexico that spills onto U.S. soil. However, she said the new approach employed through SWI is working, as the border is not the same as it was two years ago when the initiative was launched, or even one year ago — in terms of the manpower, resources and technology; in terms of the relationships built with federal, state, local and tribal partners; and in terms of the U.S. partnership with Mexico. More can be done with the additional $600 million allocated that will support 1,000 new border-patrol agents; 250 new customs and border protection (CBP) officers at ports of entry; 250 new immigration and customs enforcement agents focused on transnational crime; and improved tactical communications systems. It also includes purchasing additional CBP unmanned aerial vehicles and related systems.

“In fact, we’ve now instituted Predator unmanned aircraft system coverage along the entire Southwest border — from the El Centro Sector in California to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas,” she said during the speech.

In addition, the administration officially will do away with what Napolitano said are “expensive yet ineffective systems like SBInet, otherwise known as the virtual fence.” The SBInet program began in 2005 as an attempt to provide a single unified technology, consisting of fixed cell towers constructed along the entire border.

“[SBInet] was consistently over budget, behind schedule, and simply not delivering the return on investment needed to justify it,” she said. “We’re now redirecting SBInet resources to other, proven technologies — tailored to each border region — to better meet the operational needs of the border patrol. This new technology deployment strategy is already well under way with resources invested through the Recovery Act and on the ground in communities along the border. It includes non-intrusive inspection equipment at the ports of entry, and tested, commercially available technologies such as thermal imaging devices, ultra-light detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and remote video surveillance system enhancements.”

For more information on wireless surveillance, attend these sessions at IWCE in Las Vegas, March 7-11, 2011.