The Obama administration has decided to abandon construction of a high-tech “virtual fence” along the Mexico-U.S. border, proclaiming it an expensive failure.
Just as most people expected it to be.
When the so-called Secure Border Initiative was announced back in 2006, President Bush called it “the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history.”
“The American people are rightfully insistent on the fact that we solve this 30-year-old problem,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said. “And this is about a solution which we believe is going to do the job.”
Even at the time, though, most of those paying attention understood the project to be a purely political gesture by the Bush administration, which was eager to tamp down criticism of its immigration policy.
”We’ve been presented with expensive proposals for elaborate border technology that eventually have proven to be ineffective and wasteful,” U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Kentucky, warned in one 2006 congressional hearing. ”How is the SBI not just another three-letter acronym for failure?”
Eight hundred and fifty million dollars later, Rogers and others have been proved right. Last week, the Governmental Accountability Office released a scathing report on the 53-mile fence project and the performance of its lead contractor. Boeing. The report was the latest in a series of GAO reports dating back to 2007 that pointed out what investigators call “its well-chronicled history of not delivering promised capabilities and benefits on time and within budget.”
“Although some of the individual components perform acceptably, SBInet has failed to deliver on the promise of an integrated system that detects and simultaneously identifies intruders, and then quickly and accurately directs resources to intercept them,” said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
“This is due to unrealistic expectations about the capabilities of current technology, as well as a flawed underlying concept. In their quest to automate border security, the system’s proponents appear to have lost sight of the fact that surveillance technology is incapable of apprehending anything; well-trained and highly-skilled law enforcement officers are necessary to accomplish that task.”