Napolitano explains why less (money) is more for SBInet

Homeland Security Secretary says SBInet has been plagued with delays

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today explained the administration’s rationale for requesting significantly less money for fiscal 2011 for a program that uses information technology to secure the United States’ southern border.

Napolitano told members of the House Homeland Security Committee that DHS' Customs and Border Protection directorate would complete the first phase of the SBInet program to deploy a virtual fence along the border, but said that project delays and difficulties demanded a fresh look at the program before going further.

The Secure Border Initiative and the SBInet virtual fence program would get $574.17 million under President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget. That’s down sharply from the $800 million the program got in fiscal 2010.


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Virtual border fence would lose under budget


“SBInet, a contract and a concept that was entered into years ago, has been plagued with troubles from day one,” Napolitano said. “It has never met a deadline, it hasn’t met its operational capacities, and it doesn’t give us what we need to have.”

In January Napolitano requested a reassessment of the program. Boeing, the prime contractor for the project, got the SBInet contract in September 2006.

Napolitano said requested funding for technology-related border security efforts would instead go to things that are easily maintained and more operable by border control agents. Meanwhile, Napolitano said the reassessment doesn’t signal lessening of the department’s commitment to using SBInet or another kind of technology along the border.

“Look, that’s a big investment, there’s a lot of money, it’s presumed to have cell tower after cell tower after cell tower across some of the most hostile aspects of the United States in terms of geography and weather and the like,” she said. “It has been very difficult to deploy, it has been very difficult to operate…we think it deserves and merits a fresh look.”

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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