SBInet lives on in parts of DHS border protection plan

Tuesday - 4/12/2011, 10:08am EDT

Mark Borkowski, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition (OTIA,) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP,) Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The now defunct virtual border fence project will be resurrected in concept by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Secure Border Initiative network (SBInet) had covered 53 miles of the 2,100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and cost $1 billion. The network incorporated surveillance technologies to survey the border.

SBInet, started in 2006, was replaced earlier this year by a plan that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said would take a more targeted approach to border protection.

The new strategy includes a "spectrum of technology," using a combination of radar and cameras, said Mark Borkowski, assistant commissioner of Customs and Border Patrol's Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition.

The initial focus of the new border protection plan will focus on the Arizona-Mexico border, which sees a lot of traffic from the smuggling of people and drugs.

But the technology likely won't be in place border-wide until at least 2021, according to the Government Accountability Office.

What's different from SBInet to the strategy now is DHS will not have to build its own system and can instead purchase technology from vendors, Borkowski said.

"There may be times we buy from multiple vendors even for a specific technology," he said.

Managing these contracts will be a challenge for DHS, which Borkowski said had been hiring to meet the demand and would continue to hire to manage the multiple contracts.

"My concern is we're going to be stretched thin dong that," he said.

Borkowski said some of this concern is mitigated by the types of systems DHS is acquiring and the kinds of contracting used.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.