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In January 2010, the last of three U.S.-funded radar stations on the Black Sea coast of Georgia will open, marking the completion of a significant international assistance program. The radar stations will help a key U.S. ally protect its maritime borders, said James Kelly, chief of party for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Georgia Border Security and Law Enforcement assistance program.
"The radar stations are important because they permit the Georgian Coast Guard to monitor Georgia's maritime borders and identify vessels entering and exiting Georgian territorial waters," said Kelly. "It is very satisfying to be able to assist our allies in strengthening their capabilities and to be able to assist them in their reform and modernization efforts."
The station, in Gonio near the Turkish border, cost about $500,000 and took just over three years to complete, said Charles Samuel, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District's Georgia Project Office, which oversaw the design and construction contracts for all three radar stations. The other two stations, which had a similar construction and purpose, were built in Chakvi, halfway up the Black Sea coast of Georgia, for about $600,000, and Anaklia, in the northern coastal area of Georgia, for about $540,000.
Samuel, who also oversees infrastructure projects for the Georgian Border Police and Revenue Service as well as humanitarian assistance projects funded through the U.S. European Command, said he was excited to help the Georgian Coast Guard on such essential projects.
"It's really been wonderful to assist this nation with such projects," said Samuel, whose office is in the capital, Tbilisi. "Projects like this truly help Georgia develop and grow the capabilities of its own institutions, like its coast guard."
Kelly said that working with the District on these projects has been "a real pleasure."
"Charles Samuel and his team have been responsive to our needs, accessible, and professional throughout the design and construction phases of each of the three radar projects," he said.
Put into context, the facilities are just a few of the many examples in the region that illustrate the United States' support to regional border security objectives, Kelly said. These stations act as "enforcement tools that enhance Georgian capabilities to prevent, deter and detect contraband smuggling, illicit weapons trafficking, the illegal migration of aliens, and to address terrorism threats."
With a coastline of almost 200 miles - a large slice of the Black Sea - and borders with Russia and Middle Eastern countries, Georgia has historically been a main thoroughfare for illegal trafficking. The aim of GBSLE assistance program, Kelly said, has been to give Georgia the capability to control the movement of people and goods across its borders to reduce the threat of weapons smuggling and other illicit trafficking .
"Such projects enhance Georgia's status as a sovereign nation and assist it in becoming a self-sustaining country, which is less dependent on long-term foreign assistance," Kelly said.
The facility is the latest of 18 Corps-managed facilities including several border-crossing stations funded under the GBSLE assistance program.
Future Europe District projects under the GBSLE program include the construction of a $700,000 customs training facility in Lilo and a $300,000 language lab for the Georgian Coast Guard in Batumi, the dredging of a section of Georgia's main commercial and military port in Poti, and renovations to a boat and machine shop also in Poti.
The latter two projects will be funded through a new U.S. assistance initiative called the Export Control and Border Security program, managed by the State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.