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.
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.