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After years of political pressure from Texas politicians, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said Monday that he expects the federal government to deliver unmanned aircraft to watch over the border with Mexico by this fall.
Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, said he has had discussions with top officials from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's office of air and marine operations, and they agreed to the timetable, subject to Federal Aviation Administration approval to allow the surveillance planes — often referred to in the political vernacular as "Predator drones" — to fly over Texas.
Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, said the administration is "working as quickly as we can on this."
Cuellar said the FAA told him that regulators' main concern has been with Texas' heavy airplane traffic — both private and commercial.
If approved, the unmanned aircraft in Texas would add to the federal government's existing border effort, which includes a handful of other unmanned aircraft, 20,000 Border Patrol agents, about 650 miles of border fence and 41 mobile surveillance systems, according to Customs and Border Protection.
The plane, which is made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and officially called a Predator B, is able to spot illegal border activity and send images in real time to border officials.
At that point, Border Patrol agents could be dispatched, according to Customs and Border Protection.
Cuellar — along with Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry — has been trying to bring the unmanned aircraft to Texas for years.
Cornyn and Perry, both Republicans, have been among the most vocal critics of the regulators' pace.
"Washington needs to quit fiddling while the border region of America burns," said Perry, who has been calling for Predators since 2005.
Also last week, Cornyn said that the FAA's pace "borders on foot-dragging."
Cuellar has refrained from using harsh words directed at the FAA.
Instead, he invited FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and Alan Bersin, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, to his office on May 20 to make sure an agreement can be reached.
"My interest in this is to get this done as quickly as possible," he said.
Cuellar, who leads the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, has asked the FAA to give priority to Texas' request.
Cuellar and Customs and Border Protection officials said a home for a Texas-based Predator already has been identified at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi.
Kimberly Kasitz, a spokeswoman for General Atomics, said one unmanned aircraft costs $10 million to $12 million.
Originally posted by Legion2112
reply to post by tigpoppa
Who is "they?" Have we given Predators to the border patrol before? I'm sorry, not trying to be fecetious, I legitimately don't know...
Originally posted by Zosynspiracy
And let's not forget it's not just "illegals" we need to worry about. It's cartel drug traffickers armed to the teeth with shoulder launched surface to air rocket launchers who will laugh in the face of a UAV if they get the chance to shoot one down.