Phoenix – Multiple high ranking government officials have canceled plans to attend the border security expo in Phoenix this week.
Normally a golden for security companies to profit from a government more than willing to put billions of dollars into security since Sept. 11, the automatic spending cuts have made this year’s expo a different story.
Many of the more than 180 companies exhibiting their products are worried the cuts could mean less money to go around and longer waits to secure contracts, at least until Congress agrees on a plan to free up funds.
Paul Roselle, the manager at 4D Security Solutions, was hoping to sell the U.S. Border Patrol on his company's high-tech mobile surveillance system.
"It's definitely added more unknowns to what's already a long, drawn out acquisition process fraught with delays," Roselle said Tuesday. "We don't know what the government is doing and neither does the government."
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher, David Aguilar, deputy commissioner of U. S. Customs and Border Protection and John Morton, director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement had been set for keynote speeches at the expo, but stayed in Washington, forcing organizers to replace them with last-minute speakers.
Customs and Border Protection says they have been forced to limit travel because of the current budget environment in Washington which has affected every federal government agency. The agency didn't say how spending cuts might affect new purchases or contracts for additional high-tech gear aimed at border security.
"It basically killed the show," said Hitachi's Lawrence Ottaviano, who is here displaying long-range surveillance cameras with night-vision and thermal imaging capabilities. "By these people not coming, it's basically like trying to sell them a car without having a test drive."
David Rogers of Streit USA Armoring said his company, which makes armored vehicles, is just getting more creative with its marketing and looking more to civilian and foreign buyers.
"Obviously everyone in the defense sector is concerned about sequestration," Rogers said. "It's just become a challenge to go find where they're actually spending money. You adapt or die."
But organizers of the convention say the event is still an important and well-attended affair, even with the situation in Washington.
Eagle Eye Expositions president Paul Mackler said the federal government speakers have been replaced, and the event is still expected to attract a record crowd, including international security representatives seeking out new technologies for their own countries and officials from U.S. local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
"There are a number of government officials from the Washington, D.C., area that, because of sequestration, are now unable to attend the conference this year," he said. "We're disappointed they won't be here, but it won't hamper the program ... There are still billions of dollars that law enforcement agencies at all levels — local, state and federal — are investing and will continue to invest."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.