CBP lacks capability to support existing SBInet technology, says DHS

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Customs and Border Protection lacks the capability to support SBInet technology already deployed along the southwestern border, says the Homeland Security Department.

According to the "Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure and Technology" fiscal 2010 spending plan that DHS submitted to Congress on May 20--recently obtained by FierceGovernmentIT through a Freedom of Information Act request--CBP does not possess the engineering and logistics resources or capabilities needed to sustain currently deployed SBInet technology. Federal fiscal years start each Oct. 1, meaning that federal agencies are now in the final weeks of fiscal 2010.

SBInet is a DHS effort to blanket U.S. borders with a chain of radars, cameras, and heat and motion detectors, allowing border patrol agents working from a common operational picture. SBInet has cost $1.9 billion so far, or 564 percent more than the initial projected cost, according to the Government Accountability Office. The prime contractor is Boeing (NYSE: BA).

The plan calls for $25.3 million in fiscal 2010 spending on software, test equipment and training to enable CBP personnel to maintain SBInet information technology systems.

In the meantime, CBP is drawing on contractor staff from Boeing at a rate of $45.1 million during fiscal 2010 to provide equipment maintenance, help desk support and spare parts, the spending plan states. In fiscal 2009, Boeing received $37.5 million for the same tasks. As of Dec. 31, 2009, contractors outnumbered government staff working on SBInet by 154 to 135, the plan states.

It's unknown how much of the spending plan has changed since President Obama's August 13 signing of a southwest border security supplemental appropriations bill that pays for a $600 million boost in federal efforts in part through a $100 million subtraction from the SBInet budget.

New work on SBInet has been halted since DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's March announcement that the department froze additional funding for anything beyond already begun initial deployments along 53 mile stretch of Arizona border. The fate of the project hinges in great measure on a review Napolitano initiated in January; that assessment is scheduled for completion by Sept. 30.

According to a chart apparently made with pre-freeze data, DHS had planned to spend $697.6 million on SBInet during fiscal 2010, plus an additional $827.3 million in the first half of fiscal 2011. As of March 31, DHS had already spent $56.6 million on SBInet during fiscal 2010, the spending plan states.

The plan also calls for $8 million in spending on an open architecture common operating picture that could replace the COP utilized in existing SBInet deployments. Testing during December 2008 revealed that the SBInet information technology was prone to frequent crashes.

In general, CBP wants to rely more on in-house engineering, the plan states, which includes creation of a standards-based environment for new software development.

For more:
- download the fiscal 2010 DHS Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure and Technology spending plan (FOUO)

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