DHS cancels SBInet


The SBInet program is no more, the Homeland Security Department announced January 14. Instead, the department will launch a new border security technology approach, "which will utilize existing, proven technology tailored to the distinct terrain and population density of each border region," DHS says in a fact sheet (.pdf).

"SBInet cannot meet its original objective of providing a single, integrated border security technology solution," says DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a prepared statement.

SBInet 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 would have cost $1.9 billion to acquire, or 564 percent more than the initial projected cost, according to a Government Accountability Office estimate. Program officials instantiated SBInet technology across 53 miles of Arizona's Mexican border. The prime contractor was Boeing (NYSE: BA), which received a contract in September 2006. Boeing will remain on contract through September 2011 to support activities including maintenance of current SBInet systems, mobile surveillance systems maintenance, completion of remote video surveillance systems along the northern border, construction of fence in Arizona, and storage of steel for future fence construction and repair, according to DHS.

DHS's new approach will utilize mobile surveillance systems, unmanned aircraft systems, thermal imaging devices and tower-based remote video surveillance systems, systems meant to be a part of SBInet. Customs and Border Protection plans to hold a full and open competition to procure the technology.

The new approach should cost about $750 million to cover the remaining 323 miles of the Arizona border, DHS says in a report (.pdf) on SBInet. DHS will redirect funding originally intended for SBInet--including fiscal 2011 SBInet funds--to the new border security technology effort, the report adds.

The fate of SBInet has been in question since Napolitano ordered an assessment of the project in January 2010 and in March froze additional funding for anything beyond already begun initial deployments. The program came under the scrutiny of the DHS inspector general for cost overruns and lateness and from the Government Accountability Office, which among other things, found that Boeing had submitted "anomalous" data making its work on SBInet look better than it actually was.

SBInet ran into trouble "months after it started and it was spiraling downhill after that," said Randy Hite, the Government Accountability Office's then-director of information technology architecture and system issues, while testifying at a June 17 congressional hearing.

President Obama signed in August a spending bill that boosted tactical communications along the southwest border in part by diverting $100 million in planned SBInet spending.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the actual costs to-date of SBInet; the $1.9 billion figure is the GAO's estimate of projected acquisition costs.

For more:
- download the DHS factsheet on its new approach (.pdf)
- download a DHS report on SBInet and the new approach (.pdf)
- go to statements on the SBInet cancelation from Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) here; Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) here; and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) here
- see all of FierceGovernmentIT's SBInet coverage

Related Articles:
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