A Virtual Fence To Nowhere
My colleague Spencer Hsu wrote a compelling, troubling
news story about Project 28, the moniker of one of those whiz-bang high-tech security projects we keep hearing about.
The lead of his story: It doesn't and apparently won't work as planned, at least for the time being.
"Technical problems discovered in a 28-mile pilot project in the desert south of Tucson prompted the change in plans, Department of Homeland Security officials and congressional auditors told a House subcommittee," Hsu wrote in a feat of grace and understatement.
The message from Government Inc.: No one should be surprised.
Over and over, the government has been sold projects, mondo multibillion-dollar projects, by its corporate partners that have not panned out. Far too often they have far exceeded cost "estimates" by said partners.
Some people, at least those billing the project as a whiz-bang high-tech solution, ought to be eating their sun visors for persisting in the face of the facts, logics and much else.
Boeing, the contractor for Project 28, billed it as a big-time solution. President Bush called it "the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history." As Hsu put it: "The virtual fence was to be a key component of his proposed overhaul of U.S. immigration policies, which died last year in the Senate."
Almost exactly a year ago, the stalwart auditors at the Government Accountability Office said this about SBINet, the parent effort of Project 28:
"The SBInet expenditure plan, including related documentation and program officials' statements, lacked specificity on such things as planned activities and milestones, anticipated costs and staffing levels, and expected mission outcomes. This, coupled with the large cost and ambitious time frames, adds risk to the program. Without sufficient and reliable information on program goals, status and results, Congress and DHS are not in the best position to use the plan as a basis for assessing program outcomes, accounting for the use of current and future appropriations, and holding program managers accountable for achieving effective control of the border."
It gives me heartburn, and that's the benign stuff. As Hsu's story pointed out, the government "disclosed new troubles that will require a redesign and said the first phase will not be completed until near the end of the next president's first term."
So far, Boeing has been paid about $86 million.
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