President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is held up in a political stalemate with congressional Democrats. But one of Trump’s most prominent supporters in the tech industry tells me virtual border security is already here – and rapidly expanding.
Palmer Luckey’s company, Anduril Industries, is deploying a security system along the border designed to detect illegal crossings, using towers equipped with radar sensors and cameras, as well as artificial intelligence to spot abnormalities human eyes might miss. His company is expanding its systems in California this month under a contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The focus here in Washington is on Trump’s call for a physical wall – especially as the president considers declaring a national emergency to build it. After the longest government shutdown in U.S. history did not yield a breakthrough in border security negotiations, Democrats who are resistant to building a physical wall have said they are open to funding for a “smart wall,” or some other alternative to secure the border using technology.
As Trump is expected to amp up his calls for a wall in tonight’s State of the Union address, Luckey says technology such as Anduril’s system, known as Lattice, could be something that ultimately garners bipartisan support. He wants lawmakers to know that this kind of technology is not a “pie- in-the-sky” fantasy.
“We’re not a concept, we’re not a white paper, we’re a real system that’s actually deployed in multiple sites on the U.S. border,” Luckey tells me. “We just signed a large expansion of our technology on the border, and we’re going to be putting more of it out there.”
Luckey is loudly touting his border wall technology – in stark contrast from many technology titans who have grappled with internal pushback for their work with the Trump administration on immigration. Last year, employees protested Salesforce’s software contracts with CBP and Amazonemployees called on the company to cut ties with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, especially after reports that the e-commerce giant was selling facial recognition technology to government agencies. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
After facing backlash for his own political beliefs in Silicon Valley, Luckey says he is trying to position Anduril as a company where employees across the political spectrum can be open and proud about doing work for the government. “This is not a place where you come to fight about politics, this is a place you come to work on important national security technology,” Luckey said. “The people who are scared of an environment like that and only want to work in an environment that caters to their particular ideology are probably not the people who would fit in very well.”