Been blogging this disaster for several months (click “virtual fence”), but now it’s official. Time to issue another Code Elmo Red homeland insecurity alert.
But hey, at least we’re building those fences for Egypt and Mexico, right?
Read and weep:
The government will replace its highly touted “virtual fence” on the Arizona-Mexico border with new towers, radars, cameras and computer software, scrapping the brand-new $20 million system because it doesn’t work sufficiently, officials said.
The move comes just two months after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff officially accepted the completed fence from The Boeing Co. With the decision, Customs and Border Protection officials are acknowledging that the so-called Project 28 pilot program to detect illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border doesn’t work well enough to keep or to continue tweaking.
Chertoff accepted the program on Feb. 22 after Boeing apparently resolved software glitches. But less than a week later, the Government Accountability Office told Congress it “did not fully meet user needs and the project’s design will not be used as the basis for future” developments.
The project consists of nine towers along a 28-mile section of border straddling the border crossing at Sasabe, southwest of Tucson.
DHS will put in about 17 new towers, some holding just communications gear, others featuring new cameras or new radars, at an undetermined cost.
The department also is spending at least $45 million to have a customized computer program written so the collected data is more quickly and efficiently fed to Border Patrol agents.
Although the system is operating today, it hasn’t come close to meeting the Border Patrol’s goals, said Kelly Good, deputy director of the Secure Border Initiative program office in Washington.
“Probably not to the level that Border Patrol agents on the ground thought that they were going to get. So it didn’t meet their expectations.”
The Border Patrol had minimum input in designing the prototype but will have more say in the final version, officials said.
More waste to come:
The new software Boeing is creating to provide agents a complete and rapid picture is considered the core of any new operating system. The contractor will use another $19 million for later upgrades.
That’s a fraction of some $860 million Boeing has been awarded for technology, physical fences and vehicle barriers.