DHS orders work to stop on SBInet

Under orders from the Homeland Security Department, Boeing has stopped construction of the multibillion-dollar SBInet border surveillance project along the border between Arizona and Mexico until further notice, officials from the agency and company said today.

DHS halted the work because the Customs and Border Protection agency has not received the necessary permissions from the Interior Department, said DHS spokesman Barry Morrissey.
 
“Because CBP does not have an agreement with the Interior Department,  we cannot proceed with tower construction,” Morrissey said. “We have asked Boeing to stand down on the Arizona deployment. We cannot install sensor technology on towers that have not been built.”

Other sources close to the project said the work cannot proceed until DHS has land-use and environmental permissions from Interior.

Boeing was scheduled to begin construction of permanent towers this summer in Arizona, but the company has halted work, said spokeswoman Deborah Bosick. The delay has nothing to do with Boeing’s performance on the project, she added.

“We've been asked to delay deployment [but] not due to a performance or cost issue,” she said.

The $8 billion SBInet electronic surveillance system consists of cameras, radar units and other sensors strung on towers and linked via communications equipment to CBP operations centers. The system is expected to eventually span the entire border between the United States and Mexico.

Boeing received the prime contract for SBInet in September 2006 and began work on a $20 million, 28-mile demonstration segment in Arizona using temporary towers. DHS accepted that section, called Project 28, in February after complaints about delays and technical glitches.

In June, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said the department was preparing to award task orders to Boeing to install the first two operational segments of SBInet — Tucson-1 and Ajo-1 — which together span 53 miles.

Boeing officials have previously said the two new segments could be completed as early as December.

The new sections are adjacent to and, in some cases, overlap the Project 28 section, Boeing officials said. The company plans to replace the temporary towers with permanent ones, and upgrade and integrate the surveillance system — backbone network, software, cameras and sensors — in a lab before installing it in the Tucson-1 and Ajo-1 sections.

CBP is also deploying unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based mobile surveillance systems and independent ground sensors.

In its fiscal 2009 budget submission to Congress, the Bush administration requested $775 million for SBInet.

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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