Rick Nelson, Director for the CSIS Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program and a Senior Fellow with the  International Security Program, shares some “critical questions” and answers on the future of SBInet.

The End of SBInet? – CSIS

Q1: There was growing evidence last week that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will scrap plans for a “virtual fence” along the U.S.-Mexico border. Why?

A1: The project, begun in 2006 and known as the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet), would place surveillance systems along the southwest border to identify and prevent illegal crossings. DHS officials and congressional leaders have increasingly criticized the prime contractor, the Boeing Company, for what they view as “cost overruns and missed deadlines.”

In January, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano froze funding for an expansion of the project. Then, in March, DHS diverted $50 million in stimulus funds slated for SBInet to other border security tools, including thermal-imaging devices, body scanning units, and mobile radios. Finally, Secretary Napolitano recently opted not to extend Boeing’s contract for another year, instead pushing it to November 17. It seems that DHS officials have concluded that SBInet, at least in its current form, has not delivered results commensurate with its costs.


    At the IDGA 6th Annual Border Management Summit this past Tuesday at Crystal Gateway Marriott, Randolph Hite, Director, US GAO gave a presentation entitled GAO Report: The Secure Border Initiative. I am not an expert on SBInet, but this was a most damning report on what would certainly appear to be gross mismanagement on both sides of the entire contract. I would counsel that anyone with an interest in this topic to get the just released report and make their own evaluations.