Obama Halts Work on 'Virtual Border Fence'

Funds diverted to 'cost effective' methods

By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 17, 2010 2:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Obama has stopped work on a controversial high-tech "virtual border fence" between the US and Mexico, and will divert some of the $50 million in stimulus funds planned for the system to other border security equipment. The move likely signals the death of a 5-year Secure Border Initiative to erect a series of surveillance towers along most of the 2,000-mile border, a project launched by George Bush in 2006 and outfitted by by Boeing.

The Obama administration initially supported the program but proposed cutting funds 30% last month amid mounting concerns about the feasibility of SIBnet. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the freeze on current work in Arizona is part of a broader reassessment of the entire project. "The system of sensors and cameras along the Southwest border known as SBInet has been plagued with cost overruns and missed deadlines," she said. Money will be spent instead on things like mobile surveillance equipment and laptops to secure the border "in the most cost-effective way possible," she said.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff discusses Boeing's contract to implement SBInet in 2006.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff discusses Boeing's contract to implement SBInet in 2006.   (Getty Images)
This is one of the towers constructed as part of Boeing's SIBnet virtual border fence.
This is one of the towers constructed as part of Boeing's SIBnet "virtual border fence."
Schematic shows how SBInet is designed to work
Schematic shows how SBInet is designed to work
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