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BAE Systems handed £38m Border Force intelligence contract

Cerberus data analytics system to give us a new reason to sweat at the landing gate

UK aerospace and defence company BAE Systems has won a £38 million ($45.7 million) contract for "an advanced, highly capable analytics and targeting system" for intelligence officers at the nation's borders.

Dubbed the Cerberus project, the Home Office plan has a whole-life cost of nearly £200 million ($241 million) and has already been given an amber warning by the Treasury and Cabinet Office watchdog the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA).

BAE Systems, the £19.5 billion ($23.4 billion) turnover group [PDF], has won the contract for the Cerberus Product Development and Associated Services, which is set to last three and a half years until August 2025.

The Applied Intelligence division of the company has won the deal via a call-off from an earlier framework agreement, with few other details made public on the procurement notice.

However, more details have emerged on the accounting officer's assessment of the programme from September last year.

"There is a critical gap in the current approach to the use of data at the border, with siloed systems preventing the effective utilization of available data. The Cerberus project will address this gap by delivering the Cerberus system, an advanced, highly capable analytics and targeting system. Enabling analysis of a wider range of datasets within a single system, intelligence officers and operational teams will be able to analyse passenger and freight data across different transport modes, with more targeted interventions based on a richer assessment of threat and risk," the report said.

The report said the whole-life costs had increased to £198.2 million ($238 milion), up from the Baseline Whole Life Cost of £172 million ($206 million) reported to the IPA.

However, the accounting officer said the project would realise gross cashable savings of £106.3 million ($128 million), efficiency benefits of £8.6 million ($10.3 million) and monetized, non-cashable security benefits of £65.4 million ($78.6 million).

"For example, by the end of the appraisal period, the project is forecasting that Cerberus will enable interdiction of an additional 1.6 tons of class A drugs per annum at the border. The identification of illicit movement of people, particularly where these movements are identified before they reach the UK border, reduces the cost to the UK of illegal migration and the direct cost to the Home Office and wider Law Enforcement of addressing illegal migration in the UK," the report said.

The IPA rated the project as an amber risk in its 2021/2022 report. "Cerberus is a complex project with dependencies being managed and delivered across multiple products," it said.

In a BAE Systems press release, the company said the system would enable Border Force and related agencies to manage, "in real time", the vast amounts of data relating to the 300 million passenger journeys and 385 million tons of freight that enter the UK every year.

In a pre-canned statement, Dominic Gallard, director of Home Office Intelligence, said: "Technology sits at the heart of operations at the UK border. Our partnership with BAE Systems enables a more data-driven approach and provides our teams with high-quality information to support operational decisions. This helps us keep the UK safe by identifying high-threat movements of goods and people and interdicting them. It also speeds the progress of low threat goods and people, thus unlocking efficiencies for Border Force and enabling UK Prosperity and Flow." ®

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