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Bush looks to defense contractors to solve immigration woes

Published: Wednesday May 17, 2006

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The quick fix may involve sending in the National Guard. But to really patch up the broken border, President Bush is preparing to turn to a familiar administration partner: the nation's giant military contractors, the NEW YORK TIMES reports on Thursday front pages. Excerpts:


Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest military contractors, are among the companies that said they would submit bids within two weeks for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build a "virtual fence" along the nation's borders.

Using some of the same high-priced, high-tech tools these companies have already put to work in Iraq and Afghanistan -- like unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment -- the military contractors are zeroing in on the rivers, deserts, mountains and settled areas that separate Mexico and Canada from the United States.

It is a humbling acknowledgment that despite more than a decade of initiatives with macho-sounding names, like Operation Hold the Line in El Paso or Operation Gate Keeper in San Diego, the federal government repeatedly has failed on its own to gain control of the borders.

Through its Secure Border Initiative, the Bush administration intends to not simply buy high-tech equipment to help it patrol the borders -- a tactic it has also already tried, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, with limited success. It is also asking the contractors to devise and build a whole new border strategy.