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.

Related Story:

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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Reader comments

Wed, Mar 17, 2010

Take a drive from Tucson on the Ajo Highway to the Mexican border at Lukesville and its easy to see why SBINet is flawed. Even if the cameras and sensors work as advertised, the terrain is so harsh that building and maintenance costs will always be excessively high. The vitual fence should be scrapped. Drones would be far more cost effective and could provide broader coverage more rapidly.

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 JosieM

VivaLaMigra commented "they wouldn't be wasting taxpayer money on this "virtual" fence that will STOP VIRTUALLY NO ONE!" ============Obviously this person knows little about the terrain of the southern border or about the advantages of technology. A physical fence would not be feasible on much of the border and as experienced where there is a fence can be dug under, climbed over, etc. A virtual fence uses technology to identify those crossing the border and can track until they are apprehended by the border patrol.

Thu, Mar 4, 2010

While everyone is blaming Boeing for the delays, it should be known that there have been lengthy delays caused by DHS failing to secure 'right of ways' to allow construction on the sites. In multiple cases DHS has secured the wrong 'right of way' tracts that subsequently didn't allow Boeing to construct towers where they were designated, and further delays resulted while getting access to the right plots of land. DHS has also changed the statement of work multiple times, which forced Boeing to re-engineer certain aspects of the program. DHS is just trying to cover their butts on an ill defined program.

Fri, Feb 26, 2010

The SBInet program manager running the program now for Napolitano is a retired military acquisition officer. Too bad he is stuck with the bad contractor that was selected before he got there. They haven't been willing to move away from Boeing but maybe they will finally after repeated failures.

Fri, Feb 26, 2010 VivaLaMigra Boston

Nappy and the mis-administration have no intention of securing the border. If they did, they wouldn't be wasting taxpayer money on this "virtual" fence that will STOP VIRTUALLY NO ONE! They'd be BUILDING the double-layered REAL fence that Congress MANDATED the DHS secretary to build. They're thumbing their nose at the LAW and the US Congress. And members of Congress are too spineless to hold her in contempt. She should be LOCKED UP until the fence construction is done.

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