Jan 11. President Barack Obama’s administration on Friday cancelled the troubled “virtual fence” project meant to better guard stretches of the vast U.S. border with Mexico and will replace it with other security measures. The project, begun in 2006 and run by Boeing Co, has cost about $1bn and was designed to pull together video cameras, radar, sensors and other technologies to catch illegal immigrants and smugglers trying to cross the porous border. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said commercially available surveillance systems, unmanned aerial drones, thermal imaging and other equipment would be used instead, suggestions made by critics of the Boeing SBInet program.
“This new strategy is tailored to the unique needs of each border region, providing faster deployment of technology, better coverage, and a more effective balance between cost and capability,” she said in a statement.
The Obama administration has been under intense pressure to beef up security to stem the flow of illegal immigrants flooding across the U.S.-Mexico border as well as halt the smuggling of drugs and weapons.
Last year, Obama signed a $600 million bill to fund some 1,500 new Border Patrol agents, customs inspectors and law enforcement officials along the border, as well as pay for two more unmanned drones. Additionally, he ordered some 1,200 National Guard troops to the southwest border to help with security. The SBInet project has faced setbacks, missed deadlines and cost overruns. The future of the project has been in doubt for some time after criticism by lawmakers and Napolitano.
“The SBInet system is not the right system for all areas of the border and it is not the most cost-effective approach to secure the border,” the Department of Homeland Security said in its assessment of the project. It did note that some of the project developments provided useful capabilities. Boeing said in a statement it was pleased the Department of Homeland Security planned to continue using surveillance towers already constructed and that it “remain committed to providing valuable solutions and supporting DHS.”
An assessment of the Boeing program released by DHS found that $1bn was spent to cover just 53 miles in Arizona. The new approach should cost less than $750m to cover the rest of Arizona’s border, some 323 miles, DHS said.
“The department’s decision to use technology based on the particular security needs of each segment of the border is a far wiser approach, and I hope it will be more cost effective,” said Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman. While other lawmakers also hailed the end to SBInet, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee expressed concern there would be further delays in beefing up security along the border.
“The Obama administration must promptly present the people of this country with a comprehensive plan to secure our borders, incorporating the necessary staffing, fencing, and technology,” said Representative Peter King. The market for hi-tech border solutions is worth billions of dollars and the competition is fierce. (Source: Reuters)
BATTLESPACE Comment: This was always a very ambitious Program, it may give the DHS an opportunity to look at advanced systems such as those offered by TruePosition Inc., which provides mobile network intelligence, real-time surveillance, and geofencing (invisible tripwires of wireless energy that can be placed around critical infrastructure)
17 Jan 11. A consortium of Cassidian and Ericsson successfully completed the Schengen project for development of the TETRA radio network in Bulgaria. Following this latest extension, the secure radio communication network now includes a further 50 fixed and three mobile TETRA base stations. This has doubled the size of the network to 111 TETRA base stations. The Bulgarian public safety forces, particularly the national border police and fire brigades, will thus enjoy smooth, secure, digital radio comm