SBInet is intended to become an integrated system of personnel, infrastructure, technology, and rapid response measures to secure the northern and southern land borders of the U.S. by replacing two former programs, America’s Shield Initiative and the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System. Both of these programs had similar goals, but were ended due to mismanagement and failure of equipment. Former Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson played a large role initiating SBInet.
DHS estimates that it will need $7.6 billion through 2011 to acquire and deploy the necessary technology and fencing along the Southwest border to carry out SBInet. The first phase of SBInet, called Project 28, is intended to demonstrate SBInet technology across a 28-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border.
SBInet is managed by Boeing with subcontractors Centech Group, DRS Technologies, Kollsman, L-3 Communications Government Services Inc., L-3 Communication Systems – West, LGS, Perot Systems, Unisys Global Public Sector, and USIS.
The SBInet contract runs through September 30, 2009, with three one-year options. The cost of Project 28 is estimated at $67 million. The value of Boeing’s three-year contract to build SBInet is estimated to be between $2 billion and $8 billion.
Greggory L. Giddens Mark Borkowski is the current executive director of the SBI Program Management Office at CBP.
Boeing planned to have Project 28 operational in June 2007. Problems with software and other technology led to high profile delays. With Project 28 implementation delayed until October 2007, Secretary Chertoff told a Congressional hearing that he is “not going to buy something with U.S. government money unless I’m satisfied it works in the real world.” He added, “And if it can’t be made to work, I’m prepared to go and find something that will be made to work, although I’ll obviously be disappointed.”
The system is designed to detect a “target” with radar, and then use video cameras to determine whether the radar encountered a person, vehicle, or an animal. In February 2008, the GAO reported that radar readings were too slow and were being triggered by rain and other weather-related false alarms. Moreover, camera couldn’t identify subjects beyond 3.1 miles.
Senior members of the Senate (i.e. Lieberman, Collins, Akaka, Voinovich) have expressed concerns about SBInet’s management challenges. The senators also cited an over-reliance on contractors as one of their chief concerns, raising issues about whether DHS can properly oversee the project.
So can it work? Border patrol agents began using SBInet in December 2007, and the system was officially accepted by DHS in February 2008. Boeing was awarded further contracts to upgrade software and hardware, which I believe still expects to have done by the end of 2008.
CORRECTION: Thanks to reader D.O., please note that Greg Giddens was succeeded as head of the SBI Program Office by Mark Borkowski, a retired USAF Col. who served previously as director of mission support for the U.S. border patrol. Giddens left Sept. 19 to become executive director of facilities management and engineering for CBP.