GAO: Boeing Misreported Progress On Homeland Security Project

Prime contractor installing surveillance equipment along U.S.-Mexico border reportedly did not provide reliable data on status of work and cost.

15 Budget Busting Technology Projects

15 Budget Busting Technology Projects

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Slideshow: 15 Budget Busting Technology Projects

Boeing misreported progress on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) project to build a high-tech border fence, signaling the need for the agency to improve its oversight of the project's main contractor, according to the federal government's watchdog agency.

During a 21-month period ending in February 2010, Boeing did not provide reliable data for SBInet about the progress of work and costs related to it, according to a report published this week (PDF) by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Boeing has been the prime contractor on the SBInet project since 2006. The project aims to install cameras, radar, and ground sensors along the fence on the border between the U.S. and Mexico and allow the border patrol to manage the system centrally.

SBInet has been criticized by the GAO in the past for being over budget, past deadline and poorly managed, and is currently undergoing review to see whether work on it should even continue.

Now poor oversight of Boeing by the DHS is being added to the list of problems plaguing SBInet. The GAO said that the DHS's inability to properly manage the contractor has resulted "in costly rework" and contributed to "SBInet's well-chronicled history of not delivering promised capabilities and benefits on time and within budget."

The DHS has received $4.4 billion in appropriations for SBInet since fiscal year 2006, including about $2.5 billion for physical fencing and related infrastructure, $1.5 billion for virtual fencing and about $300 million for program management, according to the GAO. As of May 2010, the DHS had obligated about $1.02 billion for the project.

Oversight mistakes for which GAO criticizes the agency include inadequately documenting its review of contract deliverables and failing to communicate to Boeing a rationale for rejecting some of them.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Montalbano, Contributing Writer

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer, journalist, and therapeutic writing mentor with more than 25 years of professional experience. Her areas of expertise include technology, business, and culture. Elizabeth previously lived and worked as a full-time journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City; she currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, hiking with her dogs, traveling, playing music, yoga, and cooking.

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