The Department Of Homeland Security announced Friday that it is scrapping a Bush-era plan to build a “virtual fence” along the U.S.-Mexican border, citing costs — which have already reached around $1 billion.
The project, dubbed the Secure Border Initiative or SBI-Net, began in 2006 in order “to integrate new and existing border technology into a networked system that will enable [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] personnel to more effectively detect, identify, classify, and respond to incursions at the border,” through, among other things, “surveillance and detection tools such as unattended ground sensors, radar, and cameras,” according to the DHS website.
But on Friday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said that the project “does not meet current standards for viability and cost effectiveness.”
Ms. Napolitano’s decision brought a long-expected close to a project carried out by the Boeing Corporation under a contract first signed in 2005 under President George W. Bush, which had been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Originally estimated to cost more than $7 billion to cover the 2,000-mile length of the border, it was the subject of more than a dozen scathing reports by the Government Accountability Office.
In a pilot program in Arizona, it cost about $1 billion to build the system across 53 miles of the state’s border. Officials said the new approach, using mobile surveillance systems and unmanned drones already in the Border Patrol’s arsenal, would cost less than $750 million to cover the remaining 323 miles of Arizona’s border.
Napolitano said that instead, agents “will utilize existing, proven technology tailored to the distinct terrain and population density of each border region, including commercially available Mobile Surveillance Systems, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, thermal imaging devices, and tower-based Remote Video Surveillance Systems.”
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to meet our border technology needs,” she said.