Virtual border fence would lose under budget

The Obama administration wants to give the Homeland Security Department’s Secure Border Initiative significantly less money in the fiscal year 2011 budget, which means the technology-based virtual "fence" along the United States’ southern border could suffer.

The SBI and the SBInet virtual fence program, both run by DHS’ U.S. Customs and Border Protection, would get $574.17 million this fiscal year under President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget released today. That’s down sharply from the $800 million the program got in fiscal 2010.

The budget proposal follows Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s decision last month to request a reassessment of the SBInet program after an internal evaluation revealed “unacceptable delays” in the program. Boeing, the prime contractor for the project, got the SBInet contract in September 2006.

Meanwhile, one big winner in Obama’s DHS budget proposal was screening technology for airports.

DHS' Transportation Security Administration would get an additional $214.7 million to put in place 500 more advanced imaging technology machines at airport checkpoints to detect dangerous materials including those that are not metals, DHS’ Acting Chief Financial Officer Peggy Sherry told reporters. She also said the budget also called for an additional $218.9 million for personnel to operate the machines.

Sherry said that the proposed additional machines combined with the 500 that are already planned to be deployed would place advanced imaging technology at 75 percent of the country’s largest airports. The whole body imaging technology has become a focal point after the failed attempt to blow up a plane bound for Detroit last Christmas Day.

According to DHS officials and budget documents, under the proposal for fiscal 2011:

  • The Office of the Chief Information Officer would get $398.46 million up from $338.39 million.
  • The E-Verify online employment eligibility verification system would get $103.4 million.
  • The National Cyber Security Division would get $379 million.
  • The Coast Guard would get $1.38 billion to acquire new navigation, shore facilities, vessels, and aircraft, compared with $1.54 billion this year.
  • The Science and Technology Directorate would get $866.31 million, up from $863.27 million.
  • The Office of Inspector General would get $129.81 million up from $113.87 million.
  • Efforts to consolidate DHS’ headquarters in Washington would get $287.8 million,
  • The United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology project to use biometrics to verify the identity of non-citizens entering and leaving the U.S. would get $334.61 million, down from the $373.76 million.

In all, Obama is requesting $43.59 billion for the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2011 compared with the $42.60 billion the department got for this year. The total request, including fee-funded and mandatory spending, is $56.3 billion.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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