The CBP aerostat program began more than 30 years ago when the U.S. Customs Service started using tethered aerostats (balloons) in the TARS program to counter the rising number of low-flying small aircraft operated by drug smugglers. GTS personnel (prior to the formation of GTS) were directly involved in the design and systems engineering of these original aerostats.
Today the TARS system, currently operating in eight sites spanning most of the southern border of the U.S. ranging from Arizona to Puerto Rico, continue to provide a very effective and cost efficient contribution to the protection of our southern border. Each TARS aerostat carries a radar, contributing to air and maritime domain awareness, and capable of detecting targets at distances up to approximately 200 miles. CBP faces the challenge of maintaining this valuable but aging system while exploring a next generation TARS capability. GTS has embraced the opportunity to support the TARS program as a part of the expanding portfolio of CBP mission focused work.
Why was this a challenge?
The TARS Program Management Office (PMO) is charged with sustaining TARS current capabilities into the next decade. In addition to regular day-to-day operations, the PMO explores opportunities to enhance TARS capabilities for air and maritime domain awareness and also develops business cases for a replacement surveillance capability. All work is accomplished as both the CBP mission and organization are regularly reassessed to meet ever-evolving national security needs. GTS has and continues to work in mission critical environments across CBP.
How did GTS ensure success for CBP?
Assist in All Phases of the Acquisition Process
GTS is providing support to the TARS PMO in planning and executing a key TARS follow-on procurement that would provide Operations and Maintenance (O&M) support for the TARS system through 2020. This procurement would replace the two current O&M contracts with an all-encompassing contracting and support strategy that is focused on creating cost savings. The new contract will maintain continuity of the current air domain awareness across most of the U.S. southern border while allowing CBP the planning time needed for the next-generation TARS system. GTS provides strategic planning support, develops critical documentation, and participates in the entire procurement lifecycle to include supporting technical evaluation and discussions to ensure the best possible acquisitions decisions are made.
Support Operations and Maintenance Activities
GTS contributes to the TARS O&M mission on a daily basis through activities from the areas of program management, technical governance, logistics management, financial support, and organizational communication. The GTS staff prepares or contributes to portfolio briefings, quarterly management reviews, briefings to the General Accountability Office, and other documentation necessary to maintain a body of knowledge for the program’s future, and to support attainment of a Program of Record designation for the TARS Program within CBP. GTS works for the TARS program to assist in the execution of technical, contractual, and management responsibilities and ensure smooth operations. GTS developed a communication strategy to help ensure relevant stakeholders are included in current and future TARS systems. GTS’s role in support of the TARS PMO also includes assisting with technical, performance, and administrative challenges that arise during operations.
Support Reorganization and Future Planning
Garud applied its decades of experience in supporting the Federal Acquisitions lifecycle, working through a cross-functional team, to lead the focused development of an effective AoA process. GTS delivered a comprehensive market survey and analysis of non-lethal force options with the potential to meet the specific requirements defined by the community of practice representatives. It also provided transparency to all involved of the analytical process – to include a full Plan of Actions and Milestones (POA&M). The POA&M provided DHS S&T and CBP a detailed path forward in establishing and managing a portfolio of these related capabilities.
The TARS PMO was recently moved to a new component of CBP, the Air and Marine Operations organization. GTS in its capacity in the TARS PMO is working with the client to adapt to the new customer organization and ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption to daily operations. This change also involves communicating work progress made to date and more opportunities to further develop the long-term strategy for TARS.