The defense industry must be loving the Senate's highly particular new Mexican border security plan. Under the legislation, the Border Patrol needs to purchase six Northrop Grumman airborne radar systems—each at $9.3 million; 15 Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters, which go for about $17 million; eight American Eurocopter choppers at $3 million; and 17 Bell Helicopter models that aren't built anymore, the Washington Post reports. Normally, such purchases are made through a bidding process, but the co-sponsors of the plan—Republicans Bob Corker and John Hoeven—say they decided to get specific in order to win support from GOPers seeking stronger border controls.
The senators didn't actually create the list themselves, though. It was actually assembled in 2010 by Border Patrol officials at the behest of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and those officials handed it to congressional staffers upon request. Most of the equipment is listed according to type rather than manufacturer, and under the proposal, Napolitano can switch manufacturers if she lets Congress know within 60 days, note Corker and Hoeven. Open bidding hasn't been ruled out, say Senate staffers, but watchdogs aren't so sure. "Lawmakers have put their thumb on the scale for particular products and technologies and that is hard for an agency to ignore," says one.