Monday, April 30, 2012

Drone On

Atrios uses the term "security theater" to refer to government projects allegedly designed to protect us. His most recent post will give you some idea of the term. What these projects do is kind of murky. They are very expensive and very complex and very impressive and, did I mention?, very expensive. The expense is justified because we live in a very dangerous world. The loss of civil liberties which ensues from these projects is justified on the same basis. The problem is that these projects rarely actually result in increased security.

As evidence of my thesis, I offer the use of drones (thankfully, up to this point, as far as we know, unarmed) for patrolling our border with Mexico to keep those dirty brown people from entering our pristine republic and to keep out the nasty drugs that country insists on foisting upon us.

Now, as I noted recently, because of several factors, primarily the US economy, the flow of undocumented workers from Mexico and Latin America has dropped dramatically. That means that the primary justification for the use of the drones at the border has to do with the drug trade. And those expensive little buggers are just not as effective as they have been touted to be.

The mixed results highlight a glaring problem for Homeland Security officials who have spent six years and more than $250 million building the nation's largest fleet of domestic surveillance drones: The nine Predators that help police America's borders have yet to prove very useful in stopping contraband or illegal immigrants.

The border drones require an hour of maintenance for every hour they fly, cost more to operate than anticipated, and are frequently grounded by rain or other bad weather, according to a draft audit of the program last month by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general.

Last year, the unmanned fleet flew barely half the number of flight hours that Customs and Border Protection had scheduled on the northern or southern borders, or over the Caribbean, according to the audit.

And the drones often are unavailable to assist border agents because Homeland Security officials have lent the aircraft to the FBI, Texas Rangers and other government agencies for law enforcement, disaster relief and other uses.
[Emphasis added]

Each drone costs $3,000 an hour to fly, which must pull a huge chunk from the DHS budget for border security, so some adjustments had to be made.

To help pay for the drones, Customs and Border Protection has raided budgets of its manned aircraft. One result: Flight hours were cut by 10% for the P-3 Orion maritime surveillance planes that hunt smuggling ships on the West Coast and in the Caribbean.

The amount of illicit drugs seized in Predator raids is "not impressive," acknowledged Michael Kostelnik, a retired Air Force major general who heads the office that supervises the drones.

Last year, the nine border drones helped find 7,600 pounds of marijuana, valued at $19.3 million. The 14 manned P-3 Orions helped intercept 148,000 pounds of cocaine valued at $2.8 billion.
[Emphasis added]

Presumably the same problems noted for the drones used in patrolling the border also will crop up in the drones all of the local law enforcement agencies are clamoring for, but that doesn't seem to matter. The "eye in the sky" is just what the dictator ordered, so by god, we're gonna have them.

Once again I'm going back to bed to pull the covers over my head. Don't call me until the revolution has been underway for at least ten minutes.

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said... - [url=]site[/url] site

1:50 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home