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3/19/2010
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GAO: Multiple Failures Sunk Border Security System

Poor management and performance led the Department Of Homeland Security to halt funding of SBInet, Government Accounting Office says.

A botched testing process, performance issues, and poor management derailed a Department of Homeland Security project to install a sophisticated security system on the fence at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.

The DHS earlier this week cut off funding for the project, called SBInet, pending further review. The report outlines events that led to the DHS' decision.

The project was to install cameras, radar, and ground sensors along the fence on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It was originally meant to be completed by 2014. DHS called for a reassessment of the project last month.

Test plans were poorly defined and plagued by "numerous and extensive last-minute changes to test procedures," according to the report, and even when the system was tested, it performed poorly.

Further, those overseeing the project failed to prioritize solving problems with the system and failed to conduct further tests.

The report concluded that if the development and testing of the system were to continue in the same fashion, SBInet would not perform as expected and would take longer and cost more than necessary to implement.

"For DHS to increase its chances of delivering a version of SBInet for operational use, we are recommending that DHS improve the planning and execution of future test events and the resolution and disclosure of system problems," the report concludes, adding that the DHS agreed with these recommendations.

The DHS had expected the entire SBInet project to cost $6.7 billion, a readjustment from its original projected budget of $8 billion. To date the DHS has spent about $720 million on current SBInet deployments since the project began in 2005.

SBInet was to install a series of cameras, radar, ground sensors and other high-tech surveillance technology along the fence on nearly the entire border between the U.S. and Mexico, as well as integrate them via a centralized network and dashboard from which border control can monitor activity along the border.

The project was originally scheduled for completion by 2014, but the technical glitches and delays outlined in the GAO report held up the project so that only a prototype of the final solution is currently in use on just one part of the border.

The DHS plans to reallocate $50 million of Recovery Act money that was meant for SBInet to implementing a scaled-down version of the project.

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