Following testing that was supposed to be final, the Homeland Security Department has determined that it needs to develop better software and perform additional tests on the initial 28-mile segment of the SBInet border surveillance system, a department spokeswoman said.
On Dec. 10, the department’s Customs and Border Protection agency conditionally accepted from prime contractor Boeing Co. the “Project 28” initial segment of the Secure Border Initiative Network at the Arizona-Mexico border.
Also on that date, agency officials said they would conduct 45 days of operational testing before final acceptance of that section.
But 57 days later, a department official has confirmed a second round of tests is being conducted.
“Based on the testing completed, we know what changes in hardware and software are required, prior to proceeding with full implementation,” DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner said Feb. 1.
“Our plan is to develop the new software, fully test it and subsequently integrate it with a new hardware system. We will also upgrade the Project 28 sensor package with new equipment that corrects deficiencies identified in the testing,” Keehner said.
Meanwhile, SBInet is operating and providing service, she added. “We will make the necessary upgrades, but the system is already providing the Border Patrol with an enhanced capability,” Keehner said.
The additional round of testing is the most recent glitch in getting the potentially $30 billion U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada border surveillance system up and running. Boeing was awarded the prime contract in September 2006 and began work on the $20 million initial task order for Project 28, installing towers, cameras, sensors and communications equipment.
Although initial completion was targeted for June 2007, the project stretched on for months due to various problems with radar, software and integration. DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner has characterized management of SBInet as high risk because of shortcomings in its oversight.
On Monday, Secretary Michael Chertoff said he is requesting $775 million for SBInet in fiscal 2009. The department also recently awarded a $64 million task order to Boeing to develop a common operational picture for SBInet. A common operational picture is a single, relevant display of information that can be used by more than one group.
However, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, along with three other senators, sent a letter to Chertoff Jan. 31 questioning whether SBInet is on the right track.
“Wise use of taxpayer dollars requires that the SBInet project have clearly defined goals and expectations, and that the department provide assurances to Congress that these investments will result in a system that fully meets CBP’s needs,” the letter stated. The senators asked for a road map for SBInet’s future development, including schedules and projected milestones.