Posted on March 17, 2010

U.S. Puts Brakes on “Virtual” Border Fence

Tim Gaynor, Reuters, March 16, 2010

The U.S. government is pulling $50 million in funding from a problematic “virtual fence” meant to secure stretches of the Mexico border and is freezing additional funding for the project pending review, authorities said on Tuesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said an allocation of $50 million in funds made under the Recovery Act would be taken away from the ill-starred SBInet program, which seeks to mesh video cameras, radar, sensors and other technologies into a high-tech system to detect smugglers.

Napolitano said the project, which started in 2006 and was being developed by Boeing Co, has been beset by technical problems, missed deadlines and cost overruns.

“Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will redeploy $50 million of Recovery Act funding originally allocated for the SBInet . . . to other tested, commercially available security technology along the Southwest border,” she said.


Napolitano said funds allocated to the program would be diverted to acquire existing technologies including mobile surveillance equipment, thermal imaging devices, ultra-light plane detection systems, mobile radios, cameras and laptop computers for vehicles used by Border Patrol agents.

She said the department also had frozen all funding beyond SBInet’s initial deployment to two areas south of Tucson and Ajo, Arizona, pending completion of an assessment ordered in January.