DHS ends SBINet virtual fence

Friday - 1/14/2011, 3:30pm EST

WFED's Jason Miller on the DorobekINSIDER

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The Department of Homeland Security is ending the Secure Border Initiative-Net (SBINet) Program, the project to build an electronic fence along the nation's southwest border.

DHS will instead implement a new strategy tailored to each region's border terrain and population, said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement Friday.

DHS briefed Congress Friday on its decision to end the program as SBINet was originally conceived, according to Napolitano's statement.

"SBINet cannot meet its original objective of providing a single, integrated border security technology solution," Napolitano said.

The new border protection plan (Scroll down to read fact sheet) will include commercially available technologies such as mobile surveillance systems, unmanned aircraft systems, thermal imaging devices, and tower-based remote video surveillance Systems. When appropriate, it will also use existing elements of SBINet, such as stationary radar infrared and optical sensor towers, according to the DHS statement.

The new plan will use funding previously requested for SBINet and provided in the continuing resolution.

Independent, science-based assessments will continue along the border in 2011 to "determine the optimal combination of technology for each region," Napolitano said.

In January 2010, Napolitano had ordered a departmentwide reassessment of the $6 billion-to-$8 billion program. Last year, Boeing, the contractor for the program, had its contract extended until November 2010.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security, applauded DHS' decision to end SBINet.

In a statement Friday, Thompson said, "The SBINet program has been a grave and expensive disappointment since its inception."

The Committee has held 11 hearings on the project and commissioned five reports from the Government Accountability Office, according to Thompson's statement.

The project has cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion for 53 miles of coverage, he said.

"I am glad that DHS and CBP [Customs and Border Protection] are finally listening to what we have been saying for years - that the sheer size and variations of our borders show us a one-stop solution has never been best," Thompson said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) also applauded the decision to end SBINet.

As chairman of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Lieberman said in a statement, "The department's decision to use technology based on the particular security needs of each segment of the border is a far wiser approach, and I hope it will be more cost effective."

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement that he understands the decision to end SBINet but also had "very serious concerns about the Obama adminstration's lack of urgency to secure the border."

King said, "The Obama administration must promptly present the people of this country with a comprehensive plan to secure our borders, incorporating the necessary staffing, fencing, and technology. I expect the Administration, in its upcoming 2012 budget proposal, to put forward such a plan, including timelines and metrics."

SBInet_newplan

SBInet Assessment Report