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SBINet – Virtual Border Security Delayed

Despite the denials by Secretary Chertoff that the SBINet (Project 28) will be mothballed, the $20 million project to deploy a virtual technology fence along the Arizona-Mexican border is being delayed for up to three years.

Though the department took over that initial stretch Friday from Boeing, authorities confirmed that Project 28, the initial deployment of the Secure Border Initiative network, did not work as planned or meet the needs of the U.S. Border Patrol. According to investigators of the GAO, software problems and other “unplanned difficulties” have plagued the implementation of the SBINet.

“It’s not really what they had envisioned,” Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice at the Government Accountability Office, said at today’s joint hearing on SBInet by two subcommittees of House Homeland Security Committee.

Testing is not complete, but Project 28’s ability to detect intrusions is expected to be lower than the rate of 95 percent, plus or minus 5 percent, that DHS wants. On the other hand, it is argued that the system is a prototype. DHS press secretary Laura Keehner indicated that the system demonstration had been successful in the field test, and that it had enabled the identification of over 2000 illegal aliens since December 2007. Further, DHS indicates that the feasibility of the technical approach, critical technologies and system integration had been proven.

Still, this is a long-term, multi-billion dollar program (the 2006 estimate was $7.6 billion through project completion in 2011 to secure the entire 2000 mile border). Boeing was given an additional $65 million in December to upgrade the software. As you read some of the information, those familiar with contracting will note comments like “portions of Project 28 will be replicated” combined with “unworkable demonstration system.” Regardless, this sounds like a political football at a time when our border security is at stake.