While immigration reform has yet to be passed, efforts have put the southern border back in the spotlight. The Senate-passed Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act includes $38 billion in personnel and equipment to secure the border. One program that is already underway may offer insight into the contract opportunities to come.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency expects to award a contract for its Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) program sometime between October and December, according to CBP.

Demonstrations by companies competing for the IFT contract were completed in June, and CBP is now preparing to conduct its final evaluation of the bids, agency spokeswoman Jenny Burke said last week.

The IFT program plans to acquire a non-developmental surveillance system that includes fixed towers equipped with sensors, such as ground surveillance radars and surveillance camera. The towers will send sensor data to a geographic display in a command center. The initial procurement will be for the Nogales Area of Responsibility (AOR), which is based in Nogales, Ariz., and includes 32 miles of border with Mexico. The Obama Administration’s fiscal 2014 budget request, now pending in Congress, contains $77.4 million for the program.

IFT is designed to detect, track, identify and classify people entering the United States illegally. In a request for proposals published last year, CBP wrote that the winning contractor will have 12 months to build, install and test the system. The agency also indicated that it might eventually buy IFT systems for five more AORs in Arizona.

Companies bidding for the contract were generally tight-lipped about the competition. Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Sheila Collins said in a brief statement that the company is offering its Guardian Eagle system, which she described as “an adaptable and scalable border ground surveillance system that uses commercial-off-the shelf components.” She added that “we have continuously proven our IFT platform, both technically and in support of local law enforcement, in preparation for the various phases of this acquisition.”

General Dynamics referred all questions to CBP. Raytheon and Elbit Systems of America did not respond to requests for comment.

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Marc Selinger is a journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area. He can be reached at marc2255@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter at @marcselinger.