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DHS Cancels ‘Troubled’ SBInet Program

An SBInet tower, Photo: boeing.com

After months of speculation and guessing games, more than $1 billion spent and a mere 53 miles of the Southwest border covered, the Department of Homeland Security canceled the virtual border fence program known as SBInet.

“SBInet cannot meet its original objective of providing a single, integrated border security technology solution,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in remarks to Congress on Friday, according to a Federal News Radio report.

Instead, DHS will implement a scaled-back version “tailored to the distinct terrain and population density of each border region,” she said.

The $8 billion Secure Border Initiative, first conceived in 2006, consisted of cameras, sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles hooked up to computer systems to better monitor the border.

The new approach to border security will use some of the same technologies as the previous model and will use funds already appropriated for SBInet.

Boeing, the original contractor on the plan, will continue to provide border-related activities for DHS through September, InformationWeek reports.

SBInet has been no stranger to controversy, often the target of Government Accountability Office investigations and congressional criticism.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a frequent critic of the program, offered optimism for DHS’ new plans.

“The department’s decision to use technology based on the particular security needs of each segment of the border is a far wiser approach, and I hope it will be more cost effective,” he said, according to Nextgov.

However, another long-time SBInet detractor was not as willing to praise DHS just yet.

“While I understand the Department of Homeland Security decision to end the SBInet program,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), “I continue to have very serious concerns about the Obama administration’s lack of urgency to secure the border,” he said.

Before the announcement Friday, many had speculated the over-budget and behind-schedule program’s days were numbered.

DHS tipped its hand back in January 2010, when DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a re-assessment of the troubled program. The decision to cancel SBInet came at the conclusion of that review.

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