Border project gets new manager

The Homeland Security Department’s Secure Border Initiative has a new executive director, retired Air Force Col. Mark Borkowski. Borkowski replaces Greg Giddens, who had been in that position since the program’s inception two years ago, a department official confirmed today.

Giddens left Sept. 19 to become executive director of facilities management and engineering for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said CBP spokesman Lloyd Easterling.

It is a lateral career move for Giddens that is part of CBP’s effort to broaden experience for its senior executives, Easterling said, adding that it does not reflect upon Giddens’ performance overseeing SBI.

The Secure Border Initiative is one of the most ambitious acquisition programs of the department with a cost that could reach $30 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office. Its components include SBInet, a high-tech border surveillance system composed of cameras and other sensors strung on towers to be constructed along the United States-Mexico border, along with border fencing and vehicle barriers along that border.

The SBInet program has been criticized by lawmakers, GAO and the DHS inspector general for delays and shortcomings in technology management.

However, Easterling said DHS officials view SBInet as having made “very good gains” to date and will continue to promote the program.

Borkowski, who was the former director of mission support for the U.S. border patrol, will be evaluating SBInet within the next several weeks, Easterling said. John Santo, who became program manager of SBInet in April, continues in that position, Easterling added.

SBInet construction, which was set to begin in July, has been postponed to January 2009 because of delays in obtaining federal land permits and the need for additional technology testing, CBP officials said previously. The department is redirecting funding from SBInet to cover dramatic price increases in steel and fuel related to the border fence construction.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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