Napolitano Cancels Virtual Border Fence Project, Proposes Alternative

FoxNews, January 14, 2011

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday that she has canceled the troubled virtual fence project along the southwest border, proposing a new plan which she claims will better address each region’s border security needs.

The decision comes a year after the secretary ordered a review of the project, which was hampered by delays and technological glitches, and froze its funding. The original plan, known as SBInet, envisioned a system of cameras and sensors which would allow officers to monitor crossings and dispatch Border Patrol agents to catch anyone entering the United States illegally.

Napolitano said her department briefed members of Congress on Friday about the final decision to nix the program “as originally conceived.” But she said DHS will pursue a “new path forward” for security along the 2,000-mile southern U.S. border. The secretary said that while the U.S. cannot provide a “single, integrated border security technology solution,” the new plan will use different technologies in different areas.

That could mean a system of surveillance towers in one area and unmanned drones in another. It could mean thermal imaging in one area and elements of the old SBInet plan in another.

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Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., a leading critic of the old virtual fence plan, applauded Napolitano’s decision.

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

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