Pulling the Plug on the Virtual Fence

The federal government had ended its billion dollar project to build a "virtual fence" on the Mexican border.
by | January 18, 2011

The feds have pulled the plug on the virtual border fence project due to its mounting cost and technological limitations, after spending nearly $1 billion on the effort.

The project, officially known as the Secure Border Initiative network, or SBInet, has been in the works since 2005 and relied on technology to aid agents patrolling the border. But it wound up costing almost $1 billion to build SBInet along just 52 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border, and the project became prohibitively expensive to continue building it elsewhere, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

The original project included devices to monitor activity along the border, as well as intelligence databases and communication tools. The hope was that, once extended beyond the pilot area in Arizona, SBInet would give the Homeland Security Department a full view of all activity on the border.

But in addition to cost concerns, critics noted some of the camera surveillance used in the project didn't work well during bad weather or in areas that aren’t flat. Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano announced the program’s cancellation Friday.

Instead, Homeland Security will pursue a regional approach to border protection, using technology that is appropriate for particular areas rather than a one-size-fits-all model.

Funding for SBInet had been stopped about a year ago as the program faced review, and ultimately the contract with Boeing for the program was switched to a month-by-month model, nextgov.com reported.

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