Border Boletín: More troubles for DHS virtual fence program

2010-10-22T10:37:00Z 2010-10-22T11:18:50Z Border Boletín: More troubles for DHS virtual fence programBrady McCombs Arizona Daily Star
October 22, 2010 10:37 am  • 

Just three days after the GAO issued another scathing report about DHS' virtual fence program, more troubling news.

Here's the story from McClatchy Newspapers, breaking the news that the that DHS is not nenewing the contract of Boeing, the lead contractor:

• Homeland Security set to pull the plug on electronic border-monitor program

The first two paragraphs in the story:

"WASHINGTON - The Department of Homeland Security, apparently ready to cut its losses on a so-called invisible fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, has decided not to exercise a one-year option for Boeing to continue work on the troubled multibillion-dollar plan involving high-tech cameras, radar and vibration sensors.

The result, after an investment of more than $1 billion, may be a system with only 53 miles of unreliable coverage along the nearly 2,000-mile border."

On Monday, the Government Accountability Office released a report calling out the Homeland Security's poor management of the prime contractor, Boeing. (See blog item in "related" box to the left.)

It was the latest in a long line of GAO reports criticizing the delays, glitches and poor managerment of the SBInet program that DHS has spent more than $1 billion on since 2006.

If DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano decides to pull the plug on the program — that hasn't happened yet — it would certainly go down as one of the most questionable uses of border security funds ever. 

A decision on the future of the program "is expected shortly" said DHS spokesman Matt Chandler in the McClatchy story. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin said the same thing while in Tucson in early September. An evaluation of the program was completed in July, so it makes sense that DHS senior officials would be nearing a decision.

If they decide to redirect future funds for technology-based border surveillance, you can reasonably expect some of that to go to the truck-mounted mobile surveillance systems that have gained rave reviews from Border Patrol agents in recent years. I wrote about them earlier this year:Small mobile units emerge as potent border-watch tool

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