Rumor: More drones will be added to patrol Southwest border

Component to control flow of illegal immigrants is part of a plan to overhaul immigration system

UNCONFIRMED: Incorporation of additional drones to federal fleet still in proposal phase

According to reports by the Washington Times and Huffington Post, the number of unmanned aerial vehicles would increase should a proposal by a group of eight bipartisan senators become law, although there was no mention of how many. (Click here for more on immigration overhaul deal.)

The proposal is drawing heavy criticism because of the Customs and Border Protection's mismanagement of its drone program. According to Nextgov.com, in 2012 the Homeland Security Department inspector general recommended that CBP "postpone additional (unmanned aircraft systems) purchases" until CBP's current fleet of seven drones maximizes its flight hours and a realistic budget is developed to maintain them. Based on Homeland Security contract specifications, the CBP's drones should have been flying at least 10,662 hours per year, but they only flew 3,909 hours on average.

In addition, the CBP spent $55.3 million for drone operations and maintenance between fiscal 2006 and 2011 but was forced to transfer $25 million from other programs in 2010 to help pay for it, Nextgov reported. The agency also didn't budget for drone-related equipment, such as a compatible ground control station for the "Predator" drone which the Corpus Christi National Air Security Operations Center was forced to borrow from the Cocoa Beach operations center.

Major part of war machine

The UAV industry is having a substantial economic impact, especially in San Diego County, home of Predator maker General Atomics. In 2011, the industry generated $1.3 billion locally and indirectly supported more than 7,000 jobs, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

 

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