The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

March 12, 2013

Border security expo begins amid fed spending cuts

PHOENIX — Paul Roselle is hoping to sell the U.S. Border Patrol on his company's high-tech mobile surveillance system mounted inside a nondescript white truck to better monitor movement of criminals and illegal crossers who are constantly changing their routes to avoid detection.

The manager at 4D Security Solutions is at a border security expo in Phoenix this week that in normal years would have been a golden opportunity to profit from a government more than willing to plow billions of dollars into security since Sept. 11. But it's a different story this year for the more than 180 companies exhibiting their products as automatic spending cuts are affecting every federal government agency.

"It's definitely added more unknowns to what's already a long, drawn out acquisition process fraught with delays," Roselle said Tuesday. "We don't know what the government is doing and neither does the government."

Several high-level government officials canceled their plans to attend the expo Tuesday and Wednesday, and many vendors worry the cuts could mean less money to go around and longer waits to secure contracts, at least until Congress agrees on a plan to free up funds.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher, David Aguilar, deputy commissioner of U. S. Customs and Border Protection and John Morton, director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement had been set for keynote speeches at the expo, but stayed in Washington, forcing organizers to replace them with last-minute speakers.

Customs and Border Protection says the agency has been forced to limit travel because of the current budget environment in Washington. The agency didn't say how spending cuts might affect new purchases or contracts for additional high-tech gear aimed at border security.

"It basically killed the show," said Hitachi's Lawrence Ottaviano, who is here displaying long-range surveillance cameras with night-vision and thermal imaging capabilities. "By these people not coming, it's basically like trying to sell them a car without having a test drive."

David Rogers of Streit USA Armoring said his company, which makes armored vehicles, is just getting more creative with its marketing and looking more to civilian and foreign buyers.

"Obviously everyone in the defense sector is concerned about sequestration," Rogers said. "It's just become a challenge to go find where they're actually spending money. You adapt or die."

But organizers of the convention say the event is still an important and well-attended affair, even with the situation in Washington.

Eagle Eye Expositions president Paul Mackler said the federal government speakers have been replaced, and the event is still expected to attract a record crowd, including international security representatives seeking out new technologies for their own countries and officials from U.S. local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

"There are a number of government officials from the Washington, D.C., area that, because of sequestration, are now unable to attend the conference this year," he said. "We're disappointed they won't be here, but it won't hamper the program ... There are still billions of dollars that law enforcement agencies at all levels — local, state and federal — are investing and will continue to invest."

 

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