According to a statement released this afternoon by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) of the House's Homeland Security committee, the SBInet program--the controversial suite of sensors, cameras and radar arrayed along the southwestern U.S. border--has been cancelled.
The program was put on hold by Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano in March after cost overruns and problems with getting the program’s technologies off the ground, but the announcement—while hardly a surprise—comes with a huge question mark: what next in border security?
In the statement, Thompson said that
“The SBInet program has been a grave and expensive disappointment since its inception. Our Committee has held 11 hearings on the project, commissioned 5 critical GAO reports, all while costing taxpayers nearly $1 billion for only 53 miles of coverage. I am glad that DHS and CBP are finally listening to what we have been saying for years – that the sheer size and variations of our borders show us a one-stop solution has never been best. I applaud them for taking this critical step toward using a more tailored technologically-based approach to securing our Nation’s borders.”
As I reported last month, companies are starting to line up with their own surveillance and communications technologies to supply capabilities that the Customs and Border Patrol says it needs along the border. Border Patrol agents actually love real time intelligence and situational awareness that SBInet cameras and radar provide them, as several agents told me in a visit to the Arizona border late last year, but in the end it seems that the expense, and the delays in deploying those technologies, finally got the best of the program.
There will be much more on this to come, as I’m still waiting on a comment from SBInet lead contractor Boeing, and word from the Department of Homeland Security about how they plan to move forward.