Failed SBINet offers lessons for border wall oversight
With a failed billion-dollar DHS project in mind, the agency's inspector general said he will audit the southern border wall project repeatedly as it is built.
The Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog agency plans to monitor the southern border wall project as it goes up, the DHS inspector general told a congressional panel.
Experience is a powerful teacher. The experience of the failed billion-dollar SBINet, a 53 mile-long system of infrastructure, technology, and rapid response capabilities on the U.S.-Mexico border, is having a big influence on the IG's approach. SBINet was abandoned by DHS in 2011 after questions about the agency's management of the complex project and ballooning costs.
In Feb. 16 testimony at the House Homeland Security Committee's oversight subcommittee, DHS Inspector General John Roth cited SBINet as "too expensive and ineffective."
Although oversight of the southern border wall didn't come up in questions during the hearing, Roth provided some of the details of how his office would keep an eye on the border barrier project in his written testimony.
Roth said his office understood the "significant investment" DHS would be making to satisfy the President's Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Executive Order.
"Historically," he said, DHS "has performed very poorly" in effective and efficient spending.
Roth said his office would conduct periodic audits on the project as it goes forward.
"A lifecycle audit approach means that we will be auditing the project throughout its life span, rather than waiting for the project to be completed or partially completed before looking at it," he said in the prepared testimony. "In this way, we have an opportunity to stop waste and mismanagement before the money is spent, rather than simply identifying it after the fact."
Roth said his office's first report on the barrier project, to be issued within the next six weeks, will take a look at lessons learned from SBINet and other pertinent border security acquisitions. The OIG will also look at Customs and Border Protection's comprehensive study of the security of the southern border, which the president's order demands within 180 days.
The border wall initiative backed by President Donald Trump would cover the entire southern border. However, DHS Secretary John Kelly told the Senate in January that a physical wall wouldn't be adequate. In a Feb. 7 House Homeland Security hearing, Kelly said he would like to see aerostats, as well as improved "sensors on the ground" to track movement along the border, and expected the wall project to be "well underway within two years."
Future audits, said Roth, would address planning, design, acquisition and construction phases of the border barrier.
NEXT STORY: FBI to private sector: work with us