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Border Security Industry Optimistic Despite Politics Around Wall

Mani Albrecht
Wikimedia Commons | http://bit.ly/2QBvUB9

Last year, Donald Trump’s election promise to build a wall had companies working in border security riding a high.  


“With his emphasis on border security, I think the people in this industry got a little excited,” said Mike Beltrani, a vice president at Telephonics Corporation.


Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
The video cameras on this Telephonics MCE can spot people more than seven miles away.

President Trump talked about a southern border wall that stretched around 1,000 miles. This version of the wall has an estimated price tag of up to $66 billion. Last July, Congress gave him a little over $1.5 billion, or funding for about 75 miles of the project, according to analysis from national security firm Cambridge Global.


Trump wanted 5,000 new U.S. Border Patrol agents, and the agency has been able to secure 1,000.


The speed of the president’s desires are crashing against the realities of congressional appropriation and bureaucratic requirements.


Despite this, Beltrani and other vendors at the 2018 Border Security Expo in San Antonio remained optimistic.


“I think it’s still going down that path. It’s been a little slower than we expected,” he said.


Telephonics Corporation supplies the Border Patrol and others with large surveillance trucks equipped with an array of tools that can see more than seven miles.


“We’ve got video. We’ve got radar. We’ve got IR sensors,” said Baltrani, describing the array.


A truck like this can augment a border wall or make a wall less necessary by allowing border patrol agents to be more spread out, he said. That’s why Customs and Border Patrol selected them in 2016, according to the company’s website.


Beltrani expects the president’s budget to be signed in the next few months and then the funding will come, and “in the long run be better off. It just takes a little longer sometimes.”


Despite the rhetoric and wild swings in the odds of border security funding, organizers of the 2018 expo saw a high in attendance, in excess of 1,000 people from 10 countries.


The continued interest doesn’t surprise Zerobase Energy’s Mark Lucas.


“Well, I think it’s obvious because there’s a lot more talk about border security, right,” he said.


This is the first time Zerobase has exhibited here. It provides efficient energy systems with large batteries and solar arrays to remote areas lacking power. Their systems work with locations as small as a radio tower and as big as an Army forward operating base, Lucas said.

Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Unlike many current scanners that radiate energy scan, ThruVision sensors absorb infrared light.


Many at the event avoid the political situation around the border wall and remain optimistic about funding. Kevin Gramer with infrared screening technology company ThruVision is one of them.


ThruVision developed passive sensors with the Transportation Safety Administration. The technology reveals guns and other objects hidden on the body in real time.


Their clients are customs agencies in the UK and Hong Kong and the New York Police Department, Garmer said, but now they want to get on the border.


The company recently tested the technology at pedestrian crossings in Eagle Pass.


Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Kevin Gramer wants ThruVision to break into the border security market.

Garmer thinks the appetite in Washington is still there for the right security solutions.


“Absolutely, especially with our tech because it is detecting things they aren’t detecting today,” he said.


And as for the rocky timeline on money getting to companies like his?


“Government procurement always takes a long time,” Gramer said.


Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive


Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive