Border Boletín: Deja Vu, another scathing report of SBInet

2010-10-18T14:37:00Z 2010-10-22T11:12:43Z Border Boletín: Deja Vu, another scathing report of SBInetBrady McCombs Arizona Daily Star
October 18, 2010 2:37 pm  • 

The investigative arm of Congress has issued yet another critical report about Homeland Security's virtual fence program, this time pointing out poor management of the prime contractor, Boeing.

Here's a link to the highlights of the Government Accountability Office report: Secure Border Initiative: DHS Needs to Strengthen Management and Oversight of Its Prime Contractor.

You can find a link to the full 63-page report on this page. Here's the main point of the report:

"All told, DHS has not effectively managed and overseen its SBInet prime contractor, thus resulting in costly rework and contributing to SBInet’s well-chronicled history of not delivering promised capabilities and benefits on time and within budget."

If you've been following this virtual fence program for the last five years, you no doubt know about all the missed deadlines and problems with a program that has been obligated more than $1 billion since 2006 and has yet to produce a working system. 

This is the second GAO report this year that has found major weaknesses in the program. In June, the GAO issued a report questioning the cost-effectiveness of the SBInet program. Here's an excerpt from the story I wrote about this in June (You can read full story in the "related" box to the left):

"The Department of Homeland Security's much-maligned border "virtual fence" took another thrashing Thursday from the federal government's investigative arm, further putting the program's future in doubt.

A Government Accountability Office official questioned the cost-effectiveness of the SBInet program that has been allocated about $1 billion over the past five years and has yet to produce a working system. The program has yet to demonstrate whether the time and money spent is a "prudent use of limited resources," said Randolph Hite of the Government Accountability Office in testimony before a House subcommittee.

The GAO has written several in-depth reports about the program since it was launched in 2006 detailing the ongoing technological glitches and delays. It was clear the program was in trouble within months of its start, Hite said.

"It's hard to redirect an iceberg once it's started moving in one direction, and that's what we've been faced with," Hite said.

Arizona has been the proving ground for the systems. A test system that cost $20.7 million went up in 2007 southwest of Tucson, flanking Sasabe. In the past two years, two systems have been constructed along 53 miles of border in southwestern Arizona. Those systems are not yet working."

In March, Secretary Janet Napolitano froze funds for future SBInet projects, and reallocated $50 million originally destined for the program provide border agents with other tested and commercially available security technology. The decision whether or not to devote more fund to the program is pending a department-wide reassesment Napolitano ordered in January. (You can read stories about both in the related box)

The new GAO report said program officials have completed the initial phase of the reassessment, evaluating the systems up in Arizona. Senior Homeland Security managers are reviewing that evaulation but officials did not provide the GAO with a date for completion.

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