As the U.S. government continues to expand surveillance and monitoring systems to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars within the borders of the United States, a recent announcement regarding the country’s southern air defense systems is raising eyebrows.
Our southern border is, in part, protected by the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS), which utilizes moored balloons hovering at about 15,000 feet to identify low flying aircraft and missiles that may penetrate the border and cross into U.S. airspace.
The system is utilized by the U.S. Air Force, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a number of missions including detection of drug smuggling and preservation of the air sovereignty of the continental United States.
According to Exelis Systems Corporation, the company that built and jointly maintains TARS with the U.S. Air Force, the government has ordered a complete shutdown of Aerostat flight operations:
The government also indicated its intent that aerostat flight operations will cease on March 15, 2013, and that the remainder of the fiscal year will be used to deflate aerostats, disposition equipment, and prepare sites for permanent closure. We are currently reviewing all the details of the RfP and evaluating the possible impacts on the program and our workforce. We continue to communicate with the government on this matter, and we will have more information in the coming days and weeks.
An Exelis employee close to the TARS project had this to say about the closure of the sites:
“Not only will this closure mean hundreds of people will be out of jobs, but it also means our borders will not be safe, especially along the remote U.S. Mexico Border like in Texas.
These defense radars detect low flying aircraft infiltrating our borders.
Without these defense radars, low flying aircraft will go undetected.
It will be open season for any drug/gun/slave smugglers, terrorists flying in with nukes, low altitude missiles, or even a full scale low elevation invasion/attack against America.”
With China actively and openly deploying Russian-made low altitude strategic bombers, designing EMP weapons capable of disabling the country’s power grid infrastructure, and establishing economic zones within the United States, it’s difficult to imagine the motivation behind the move to further weaken U.S. air defenses on the southern border.
If September 11, 2001 was any indication of our air defense capabilities, and considering that any ground invasion of the United States would originate on our southern border, then wouldn’t we want as many early warning systems as possible to be actively protecting our country in these specific areas?
The U.S. government has chosen to shutdown this outward facing surveillance system, and has instead turned the surveillance inward, on the American people.