The major Presidential candidates talked up its innovative approach to securing the U.S.-Mexico border. Aerospace and defense giant Boeing (BA), along with dozens of subcontractors, anticipated that it would give them a lucrative foothold in future government work worth billions of dollars. And fervent advocates of stronger obstacles to illegal immigration hoped the U.S. had finally found a more affordable way to fortify its southwest border than building hundreds of miles of physical barriers.
But Homeland Security Dept. officials have decided that an experimental 28-mile “virtual fence” meant to extend the U.S. Border Patrol’s eyes and ears along the U.S.-Mexico border—a web of radar, infrared cameras, ground sensors, and airborne drones—won’t be copied anywhere else in its entirety. The project was plagued with design, software, and other glitches; had fallen months behind schedule; and sometimes proved inoperable.