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CBP to End Surveillance Blimp Program Over High Costs

CBP’s surveillance climbs. Photo via CBP.

By Steve Neavling

CBP is discontinuing a seven-year-old program that funds the use of surveillance blimps in the Rio Grand Valley. 

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said the Tactical Aerostats and Re-Locatable Towers (TAS) program has become too costly, GovernmentTechnology.com reports

“It’s a self-inflicted wound because you all went ahead and got into contracts with vendors and you are paying too much, and I’ve been telling you for years to slow down and lower the price,” Cuellar said about Border Patrol leadership. 

The aerostats, equipped with radars and high-resolution and infrared cameras, can fly up to 5,000 feet. 

Cuellar said private contracts were paid too much. 

“The balloon is already paid for and all you are doing is paying millions of bucks to bring it up and down,” Cuellar said of the TAS contract.

CBP’s budget for the program has been $29 million a year since 2013. 

Cuellar is hoping to eventually revive the program by ending the use of private contracts to reduce the costs. 

“So what are they going to do with these aerostats now? So there’s a lot of questions once they get fully staffed at Homeland. I want to go into this,” Cuellar said.


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