U.S. to end Boeing border fence project

By Reuters
Posted Jan. 14 at 1:52 p.m.

President Barack Obama’s administration plans to pull the plug on the troubled “virtual fence” project  meant to better guard stretches of the U.S. border with Mexico, a senior lawmaker said Friday.

The project, being run by Boeing Co., has cost about $1 billion  to pull together video cameras, radar, sensors and other technologies to detect smugglers trying to cross the porous border.

“The SBInet program has been a grave and expensive disappointment since its inception,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, the senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement noting that the Department of Homeland Security was ending the project.

Thompson of Mississippi said that nearly $1 billion had been spent for 53 miles of coverage in the project that started during the administration of President George W. Bush.

A DHS spokesman had no immediate comment, and a Boeing representative was not immediately available for comment.

The SBInet project has faced setbacks, missed deadlines and cost overruns. The future of the project has been in doubt for some time after bipartisan criticism by lawmakers and also from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Some of the concerns centered on the project’s development of costly new systems instead of using  off-the-shelf technologies and a dearth of consultations with border police as it was developed.

Last year Napolitano pulled $50 million of funding for SBInet in the massive economic stimulus package and froze other funds pending a review.

She said in March that the money would instead be used to buy existing technologies including thermal imaging devices and ultralight plane detection systems, among other things.

The U.S. border with Mexico has been a key route for smuggling weapons and drugs. Despite efforts by authorities on both sides to crack down, drug cartels have waged a fierce and violent battle to protect their operations and business.

Boeing’s shares were up 5 cents, to $69.88, on the New York Stock Exchange.

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  1. **** Jackman Jan. 14 at 2:00 pm

    Another republican boondoggle.

    $1 billion for 53 miles of coverage.

    Sounds like a project designed from conception to perpetrate fraud against the taxpayer.

    Thanks republicans!

  2. Dickeye' Jan. 14 at 3:03 pm

    Another one of Washington State Senator Patty Murray’s (D) bright ideas aimed at enriching her corporate sponsor! So yes indeed, it was a project designed from conception to perpetrate fraud against the job producing middle up taxpayer. But what big government project isn’t?