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Originally published September 20, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 20, 2006 at 6:31 PM

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Boeing wins first $80 million piece of border contract

Boeing Co. will be awarded an $80 million government contract to provide new high-tech ways to catch illegal immigrants trying to cross U.S. land borders, officials said today.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Boeing Co. will be awarded an $80 million government contract to provide new high-tech ways to catch illegal immigrants trying to cross U.S. land borders, officials said today.

The contract is the first part of a multibillion-dollar Homeland Security Department plan to help secure the Mexican and Canadian borders. The final bill's total is unknown, a department official said, because it hinges largely on whether Congress will approve spending about $1 billion to build a fence on the Mexican border. Until then, the contract will be given to Boeing in phases, the department official said.

The Boeing contract was expected to be announced Thursday, according to a congressional aide and an official of the agency who spoke on condition of anonymity because the department had not yet made its announcement.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Jarrod Agen would not comment. "Legally we are restricted from discussing details of the contract until the award is officially announced," Agen said today.

Boeing spokesman Dan Beck also declined to comment pending a formal announcement from the government.

Chicago-based Boeing was among several major defense companies competing for the job. While other companies' proposals relied more heavily on using flying drones to patrol the border, Boeing focused on a network of 1,800 high-tech towers, equipped with cameras and motion detectors, that could feed live information to Border Patrol agents.

The contract, part of the Secure Border Initiative, is the government's latest attempt to use advanced technology to solve the illegal immigration problem, which lawmakers have called a national security issue and which has given new attention in light of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Homeland Security gave companies chasing the contract — including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. — unusual freedom to come up with their own ideas for how best to apply new and developing technologies to the problem.

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