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Border Security Insight

Feb 15, 2024

Phoenix, Ariz., February 15, 2024 – On February 8th, PureTech Systems, under the auspices of Security Industry Association (SIA) and the National Capital Region Security Forum, hosted the 4th government-industry engagement with CBP. This time, the guest speaker was Mr. Henry Laxdal, who currently serves as Deputy Directorate Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Program Management Office Directorate (PMOD). 

Chief Laxdal provided valuable insights into the evolving vision and strategy of how PMOD supports the overarching USBP Strategy to keep America safe. He discussed how the Border Patrol strives to remain innovative in its pursuit of border security, shedding light on how important industry stakeholders are to its complex mission.

His public service progressed from being a Border Patrol agent in Arizona, to working at USBP Headquarters in Washington, DC, to working as a Patrol Agent in Charge on both the Northern and Southern borders, and then back to USBP Headquarters. While assigned to Headquarters, Chief Laxdal worked in Law Enforcement Operations, Strategic Planning and Analysis, the Office of Acquisition, and is now the Deputy of PMOD.

Close to 50 participants from industry stakeholders gathered to hear how PMOD strategizes and prioritizes innovative technology to identify, target, and mitigate emerging threats. Chief Laxdal discussed the decision-making process for large-scale programs of record and newly identified potential solutions that might solve a particular capability gap. Chief Laxdal answered each question from the attendees in detail providing additional clarity to many of the interrelated topics discussed during the previous week's Industry Day and beyond. 

From Chief Laxdal’s keynote and subsequent Q&A that lasted almost two hours, we gathered the following important points:

  • There is a continued need for enhanced coordination between Border Patrol and the local sheriff departments, which often operate in overlapping jurisdictions. By establishing partnerships, it allows more effective and coordinated efforts along the border and in the local communities they protect. The shared intelligence from community policing efforts, surveillance systems and other similar systems enhances agents’ ability to manage operations along the border, increasing the safety and wellbeing of neighboring communities.

  • AI plays an important role in integrated systems with automated detection, continuous monitoring, and predictive analytics, and is considered a critical component to increasing the efficiency of border operations by streamlining processes and functions that can be completed with advanced computing. Chief Laxdal articulated how staffing and attrition rates have become an increasing challenge, requiring creative methods to complete the mission with fewer people.

  • As the evolution of technology continues to improve, the agency must continue to consider how best to utilize autonomous sensors in all environmental domains of land, air, and sea. The USBP must continue to grow its capability to rapidly adapt and deploy mobile solutions like unmanned aerial vehicles, land-based sensor nodes, subterranean detections, and future acquisition plans such as the Modular Mobile Surveillance Systems (M2S2) that provide remotely operated capabilities that reduce the need for additional manpower.  

  • Transnational Criminal Networks (TCN) are adopting the use of drones to infiltrate the borders of the United States, presenting a significant threat to the security of our nation. TCNs seek to illegally smuggle any commodity into the U.S. that provides a profit, ranging from narcotics trafficking like fentanyl to human trafficking. Additionally, TCNS are persistently monitoring border operations with the use of drones, seeking to disrupt the effectiveness of a Border Patrol response to illicit activity. To mitigate these security risks, CBP must have the flexibility and authorization to implement counter-drone operations that can identify, classify, track, and intercept drones that could be nefariously used by terrorists and TCNs.

  • Another source of effort is the Common Operational Picture (COP), designed as a software solution that ties in edge computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to further enhance the interdiction effectiveness of the USBP. The COP synthesizes large amounts of data through border detections into a unified user interface that can be used to prioritize threats and deploy border agents to interdict those threats.

The National Capitol Region Security Forum, in partnership with its many stakeholders, is immensely grateful for Chief Laxdal’s participation and candidness and looks forward to future opportunities to learn from his leadership. The preparation for this event spanned several months, and in the end, it provided a successful opportunity for engagement and set the stage for meaningful discussions and networking opportunities. 

“PureTech sponsorship demonstrates their commitment to advancing the field of border security and their dedication to supporting initiatives that promote collaboration, innovation, and best practices. This sponsorship, alongside SIA and NCRSF, provides all of us with a platform to bring government leaders expertise and vision to an audience of industry professionals,” says Wayne Esser of NCRSF.

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