DHS Halts Border Security Boondoggle

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ordered an immediate freeze on all funding of an expensive “virtual fence” of tower-mounted cameras and sensors along the U.S.-Mexico border called SBInet.

The program has been “plagued” with cost overruns and missed deadlines, DHS Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano said today in a statement.

The delays mean that Border Patrol agents have had to use existing cameras that don’t work well. Thanks mostly to the Senate ,the Border Patrol also has no leader, but that’s another story. 

As of July, the government had given $1.1 billion to SBInet contractor Boeing Co. according to this GAO report.

A 2006 DHS strategic plan estimated that installing the system along the Southwest border would cost $7.6 billion through fiscal 2011.

SBInet is really another name for C3I or C4I (command, control, computers, communications, and intelligence) — an Orwellian integrated surveillance system that can cover a huge area.

Greece hired a consortium led by SAIC to install a similar system for the 2004 Olympic games, but the system was delivered in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The DHS says it is re-allocating $50 million of $100 million in Recovery Act funding slated for SBInet to off-the-shelf cameras, light detectors, radios, cameras, laptops.

It’s unclear to me what prolonging a wasteful program has to do with economic recovery. Update: If you take a look at Recovery.gov, you’ll find one of the reasons — I’m not making this up — is helping the steel industry by building all those towers.

The Boeing SBInet core team includes

  • Centech — Arlington, Va.
  • DRS Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group — Palm Bay, Fla.
  • Kollsman Inc. (an Elbit Systems of America company) — Merrimack, N.H.
  • L-3 Government Services Inc. — Washington, D.C.
  • L-3 Communication Systems West — Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Lucent Technologies — Murray Hill, N.J.
  • Perot Systems — Plano, Texas
  • Unisys Global Public Sector — Reston, Va.
  • USIS — Washington, D.C.

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