ASBT not unlike SBInet


Customs and Border Protection plans for a successor to the canceled SBInet effort in Arizona are proceeding without a clear basis for deploying the chosen mix of technology, says the Government Accountability Office.

In testimony delivered March 15 before the House Homeland Security subcommittee on border and maritime security, Richard Stana, GAO director of homeland security and justice, said CBP made decisions on the program now dubbed Alternative (Southwest) Border Technology before the results of an independent analysis were complete and based on an analysis of alternatives that produced somewhat inconclusive results.

CBP's $570 million plan to deploy remote video surveillance systems, mobile surveillance systems, hand-held equipment and integrated fixed towers in five high-risk areas in Arizona looks not unlike the canceled SBInet program, Stana added.

DHS announced SBInet's cancellation in January; it was an effort to blanket U.S. borders with a networked chain of radars, cameras, and heat and motion detectors, allowing border patrol agents to work from a common operational picture. SBInet has cost $1.9 billion so far, or 564 percent more than the initially projected cost, according to a Government Accountability Office estimate. SBInet technology is installed across 53 miles of Arizona's Mexican border. The prime contractor was Boeing (NYSE: BA), which received a contract in September 2006.

"The RFI that CBP has put out looks very similar to the kinds of documents we saw with SBInet at the very beginning," Stana said, referring to a Jan. 18 request for information calling for industry ideas on a southwest border integrated fixed tower system "equipped with a suite of sensors for persistent wide area surveillance and supporting power and communications."

The towers "probably will look an awful lot like the towers in the SBInet program," Stana said.

Mark Borkowski, head of the CBP office of technology innovation and acquisition, told the committee that SBInet is firmly in the past, however. SBInet was intended to be the backbone of southwest border security, he said, but "the whole concept of a backbone seem inappropriate. What seem more appropriate is a tailored set of technologies."

The Obama administration's fiscal 2012 budget request calls for $242 million to fund three of five integrated tower systems in Arizona, with deployment set at the earliest to begin in March 2013 with completion anticipated by 2015.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (webcast and prepared testimonies available)

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