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.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

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.

Show All Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group