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Posted at 6:07 PM ET, 06/17/2010

DHS backing off Mexico border fence

By Jeff Stein

It was once an ambitious plan, to build a fence with the most sophisticated technology along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Originally expected to run about 655 miles, the troubled, multibillion-dollar project has now been reduced to a plan for 387 miles, and its designers have lowered its technical standards “to the point that … system performance will be deemed acceptable if it identifies less than 50 percent of items of interest that cross the border.”

“The result,” said the Government Accountability Office in a withering report Thursday afternoon, “is a system that is unlikely to live up to expectations.”

DHS doesn’t even have “a reliable master schedule for delivering” even the “first block of SBInet,” as the Secure Border Initiative is known.

“As a result, it is unclear when the first block will be completed, and continued delays are likely,” the GAO said.

Meanwhile, DHS doesn’t have a realistic grasp of SBINet’s future costs, investigators found.

All in all, the report amounted to a grim picture of the project’s future, noting its “decreasing scope, uncertain timing, unclear value proposition, and limited life cycle management discipline and rigor ….”

It "remains unclear,” the GAO said, “whether the department’s pursuit of SBInet is a cost effective course of action, and if it is, that it will produce expected results on time and within budget.”

Indeed, DHS is rethinking the whole thing, SBINet’s executive director told Congress, according to the National Journal’s Nextgov.com Web site.

"Is that the right technology in the right places, or are there better mixes and matches?” Mark Borkowski was quoted as telling a joint hearing of two House Homeland Security subcommittees on Thursday.

“Can we come up with something that's a little more rational, that's tailored to each area of the border?" Borkowski wondered out loud. "My expectation is that we would not end up with SBInet along the border. Already, that doesn't look like a wise thing to do."

The GAO’s findings on the long troubled project, launched with a $2.5 billion contract with Boeing Co. in September 2006, likely came as no surprise to the panel’s members.

Some directed their irritation at DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, as they had at her predecessor.

“Representatives expressed frustration that the review Napolitano ordered had not been completed six months after its announcement,” according to a report in National Defense magazine.

But DHS insisted that the secretary “has already taken action to address the GAO’s recommendations.”

“The Department is redeploying $50 million of Recovery Act funding originally allocated for the SBInet Block 1 to other tested, commercially available security technology along the Southwest border, including mobile surveillance, thermal imaging devices, ultra-light detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and remote video surveillance system enhancements,” DHS spokesman Matt Chandler told SpyTalk.

But in the meantime, Chandler said, “DHS has frozen all SBInet funding beyond SBInet Block 1’s initial deployment to the Tucson and Ajo regions until the full assessment is completed.”

By Jeff Stein  | June 17, 2010; 6:07 PM ET
Categories:  Homeland Security, Intelligence  
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Comments

Another government boondoggle - run by the dimwits who infest the bureaucracy.
I know...let's put these morons in charge of our health care.
And the beat goes on...

Posted by: graywolf98 | June 17, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps, a Virtual Fence along our porous border with a poor neighbor was over-reaction to "what if" scenarios such as dirty suitcase bombs post 09/11. Perhaps, scanning devices for cargo containers was over-reaction to possible terrorism attack built on "One-Percent" Threat Doctrine as well. Perhaps, creating a Department of Homeland Security, which led to reckless start-up spending, was a counter measure to fear (real or imagined) produced by Terrorism itself. Perhaps, identifying the problem realistically will lead to short, medium and long term solutions.

One would have to study the inception of the reformation of Immigration Laws through the United States Senate Judiciary Committee to weigh the significance of anti-terrorism components of Immigration Reform. Once Immigration Reform became Comprehensive, I think that Cluster "Explicative" was bound to fail. There were legal problems as well as contractual agreements involved with that Virtual Fence thing that may or may not go unnoticed today.

Commerce Department is actually supposed to regulate temporary labor force in this country but Industry just loves cheap labor, don't they ? If a Bipartisan effort of Judiciary accepted the fact that Immigration Laws needed to be upgraded, then legal aspects of obtaining the American Dream while keeping criminal activities out of our country was the primary goal of Immigration Reform.

We cannot make excuses for history. History is what it is, or not. During World War II, vital assets along our coast and deep inside America were protected against possible saboteurs. Someone declared war on Terrorism. Over 800 suspected enemy combatants (terrorists) were rounded up overseas. One terrorist cell of about 25 people were the needle in the haystack that pulled off 09/11. I heard Congressional testimony post 09/11 that there were "hundreds of terrorist cells sleeping in America". Are those cells still sleeping, scary dude and dudettes, scary.

Posted by: truthhurts | June 18, 2010 4:22 AM | Report abuse

What happened to freaking NAFTA? Wasn't this panacea supposed to keep all those living south of the border from wanting to migrate north?

And, no, NAFTA wasn't some Republican or Democratic idea. It was both. George H.W. Bush and James Baker negotiated it, but were voted out of office before ever doing anything with it. Bill Clinton, ever wanting, like his Democratic successor Barack Obama, to placate his conservative friends wearing Republican sleeves, signed it, and what did he get out of it? Republicans tried to tie him up on the impeachment pole.

Now President Obama, similarly trying to placate his conservative "friends," echoes their "Drill, baby, drill" chant, and still they try to hang him on the BP oil spill disaster.

When will Democrats learn what Republicans are all about? When they finally sign into law the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, only to realize that Senator McCain and his allies have all run for the high grass to hide from the Tea Party crazies?

Posted by: sthomas1957 | June 18, 2010 4:45 AM | Report abuse

Strategic BS Initiative

Glenn Spencer -- American Border Partrol
In July of 2006 I predicted that the virtual fence project known as SBInet would fail, and I gave the reason. Now, four years and nearly a billion dollars later, the Governmental Accountability Office has concluded that the system doesn't work, mainly because it didn't define measurable goals.
"Without a meaningful understanding of SBInet costs and benefits, DHS lacks an adequate basis for knowing whether the initial system solution on which it plans to spend at least $1.3 billion is cost-effective." Two years ago I went into detail as to just how the DHS was avoiding accountability for the system. A careful reading of the recent GAO Report shows that I was right.
Draw your own conclusions.

Posted by: davthrn | June 18, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

The DHS should not be in the construction business, evan the GSA or USACE would do a better, more accountable job than a bunch of spies used to keeping their activities secret.

Posted by: tniederberger | June 23, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

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