DHS conditionally accepts SBInet component

The Homeland Security Department is taking conditional acceptance of a radar and communications system designed to bolster 28 miles of the United States’ southern border, DHS also has awarded the project’s prime contractor, Boeing, another $64 million to design a Common Operating Picture (COP) software system for the border, the department announced Dec. 7.

Both task orders represent key parts of SBInet, DHS’ multibillion-dollar, multiyear project to use technology and tactical infrastructure to secure the country's borders. Conditional acceptance of the Project 28 task order means that over the next 45 days Customs and Border Protection will conduct operational testing before deciding to accept the system. The decision comes after months of delays caused by problems Boeing has had with integrating software from the commercial technology.

The conditional acceptance also means that DHS will pay Boeing an additional $1 million on top of the $16 million the department has already paid the company for its work on the task order. DHS is withholding another $1.5 million until Boeing works through any additional integration problems. The company has decided to give DHS a $2 million discount on the $20 million task order to be used for future work after Project 28 is complete.

With the conditional acceptance, the system is considered to be operational, said DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff at a briefing Dec. 7.

Lawmakers and government auditors had expected Project 28 to become operational in June and have criticized Customs and Border Protection and Boeing officials for the delays. On Dec. 6, Rep, Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) ,  chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, wrote Chertoff to request the department assure Congress that the program is ready for use before taking final acceptance of the system.

“We have, I think, concluded the first step of this process, which is the delivery of a satisfactory system of what we call P28 that meets the initial requirements, generally speaking, of what we want it to have,” Chertoff said.

Lawmakers have also criticized the department and Boeing for characterizing Project 28 as a prototype.

Thompson told Chertoff he was concerned by suggestions that Project 28 was just a demonstration project or a test bed for future technologies and that he was as disturbed by “the attempt to spin Project 28’s difficulties” as he was by the technical troubles.

In October, committee members asked about the logistics involved in changing contractors.

Chertoff said lt week the delays in Project 28 were not unheard of, and he is happy with Boeing as the project’s prime contractor.

“I would dispute the idea that somehow this reflects, you know, problems with the system above and beyond the normal challenges you deal with in creating a system,” Chertoff said.

DHS also announced Dec. 7 it would award a $64 million task order to Boeing to design, develop and test an upgraded COP software system to be used by Border Patrol command centers and agent vehicles.

The department said it hopes to deploy the new system in the next stage of SBInet’s technology rollout and may fit Project 28 for the new system.

The new task order is different from the work done in Project 28, which was only an “initial kind of common operating picture,” Gregory Giddens, executive director DHS’ SBI Program, said Dec. 7.

“We've learned from Project 28, and the thing now is we're able to turn it over to the operators, as the secretary said, for them to use it, and we're anxious to get their feedback to roll that into the next generation of the common operating picture,” he said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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