SBInet stumbles on its first steps

Four months after lawmakers expected the first segment of the multibillion-dollar SBInet program to be operational, the system still has not yet been accepted by border officials because of software integration problems. Lawmakers say they are losing patience with prime contractor Boeing and the Homeland Security Department.

“I’m really wondering, as I’m sure we all are, is Project 28 ever going to work as it was originally pitched to Congress and DHS, or are we again pouring vital money down the drain?” asked Rep. Christopher Carney (D-Pa.) at an Oct. 24 joint hearing of the Homeland Security Committee’s Border,Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee and the Management, Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee.

Project 28, SBInet’s first project, would help secure a 28-mile section of the border near Sasabe, Ariz., and demonstrate SBInet’s capabilities. Boeing said it has spent more than $40 million — twice the value of the initial SBInet task order — on Project 28 as it works through complex integration issues. The $20 million task order was for a fixed amount, and the company does not expect reimbursement for the difference, Boeing officials said.

The company reportedly delivered the system’s hardware on time, but it has since had difficulty integrating information collected from sensor towers, cameras, radar and ground sensors, said Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at the Government Accountability Office, who spoke at the hearing.

In August, DHS’ Customs and Border Protection agency informed Boeing that the system was unacceptable as delivered. Under a multiyear contract, the company leads a team that is responsible for developing, designing, implementing and integrating technology-based security systems that CBP will use to fortify the border.

Lawmakers discussed the possibility of DHS reopening bidding on the project, which was awarded under a largely performance-based contract.

“The inability of the department to find a border security solution that actually works makes it impossible for Congress to try to deal with immigration reform,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).

Speaking at the hearing, Roger Krone, president of Boeing’s Network and Space Systems division, apologized for the delays. Krone said Boeing believed that CBP would accept an improved version of the system soon, but he could not guarantee when.

Gregory Giddens, DHS’ Secure Border Initiative executive director, also would not promise when agents could start using the equipment in daily operations.

Boeing said it had consulted with individuals and companies that have experience in securing borders in desert areas, but some lawmakers appeared skeptical.

“I am afraid that we are sometimes double- and triple-investing in different technologies and solutions due to a lack of coordination and information sharing,” said Rep.Mark Souder (R-Ind.), ranking member of the Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee.

Stana said that border guards he met with last week expressed skepticism about the technology.Until a system is delivered, doubt will likely remain, he added.

“When you are promised that that screen…is going to be able to pinpoint illegal aliens and you find out you are chasing raindrops, it causes skepticism,” he said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group