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Report Blames DHS and Boeing for Delays With Border Security Project

One of the major tenets of the Bush administration’s border security plan was the Secure Border Initiative Network, or SBInet, a system of high-tech radars, satellites and cameras to monitor the borders. The “virtual wall” is being developed by Boeing, but four years after a contract was awarded in 2006, it is still riddled with problems. Who is to blame? The Department of Homeland Security and Boeing, for failing to track progress and deliver adequate information, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday.

The report faulted DHS for a lack of oversight on the program, claiming “DHS has not been able to gain meaningful and proactive insight into potential cost and schedule performance shortfalls, and thus take corrective actions to avoid shortfalls in the future.” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced in March a plan to overhaul SBInet, removing $50 million in stimulus funding from the project until the department could determine the most cost-effective way to move forward. All spending on SBInet — except money being spent on a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona — was frozen.

Boeing was also criticized in the report, which said the company provided information to DHS that was “replete with unexplained anomalies, thus rendering the data unfit for effective contractor management and oversight.”

The SBInet project has been expensive so far: DHS has received about $4.4 billion in appropriations for SBInet since 2006, according to the Government Accountability Office report. It also has not proven very effective. Previous Government Accountability Office reports have pointed out failures in the system, including its inability to differentiate well between animals and humans.

Delays over the project have also caused major concerns. In June, Rep. Henry Cuellar, (D-Texas), chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee on on border issues, said SBInet would take 323 years to deploy across the southwest border at its current pace.

The Government Accountability Office Report recommended that DHS increase its oversight over Boeing’s progress on SBInet, including by creating baseline performance measurements for major tasks and tracking spending more closely.

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